Making these healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Avoid tobacco and secondhand smoke

Tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. People who use tobacco, or who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, have an increased risk of cancer because tobacco products have many chemicals that can damage DNA. Tobacco use can cause many types of cancer including cancer of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.

Northwell Health provides state-of-the-art tobacco prevention education, cessation services and clinical research in the area of nicotine dependence. We have helped thousands of people quit smoking, and we have one of the highest success rates in the United States. We work collaboratively with hospitals, clinics, and physicians to ensure that patients are screened for tobacco use and provided assistance with quitting. Learn more here.

Eat healthy

There are many dietary decisions you can make to better equip your body to fight cancer:

  • Enjoy at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains. (Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread are better choices than white rice and white bread.)
  • Eat a variety of fish, poultry and beans, and limit consumption of processed and red meats (beef, pork, and lamb).
  • Avoid processed foods, especially those high in salt, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and added sugars. Avoid sugary drinks, too.

Maintain a healthy weight

People who are obese may have an increased risk of cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and gall bladder. Keeping a healthy weight may help reduce your cancer risk.


Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases, including several cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children and adolescents do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day.

Adults should do the following:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities that work for all major muscle groups two or more times per week. 

Limit alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, liver, and breast. The more you drink, the higher the risk. Doctors advise people who drink to do so in moderate amounts. The federal government’s dietary guidelines define moderate alcohol drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Wear sunscreen

Skin cancer is the most common and most preventable of cancers. The sun, sunlamps, and tanning booths give off ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause early aging of the skin and skin damage that can lead to cancer. Protecting yourself from harmful UV rays reduces not only the risk of skin cancer but also sunburn, premature wrinkles, and eye damage.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Cover up when you are out in the sun. Wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UV light.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Be sure to reapply at least every two hours, as well as after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps; both can cause serious long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer. 

Get screened

If cancer is detected early, it will likely be easier to treat. Talk to your doctor about screening tests for:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lung cancer

Online health risk assessments

Spend five minutes assessing your risk for breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers below:

Self breast exam

Self breast exams are free and take only a few minutes.

Learn more.