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Categories > Cancer > Cancer prevention and screenings

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The latest cancer-prevention tactics

» Produce pumps up protection

» Vaccines that vanquish cancer

» A new benefit for a common drug

Are antioxidants the answer?

Antioxidants are important nutrients like vitamins A, C and E; beta-carotene; lycopene; lutein; and other substances abundant in fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Antioxidants help protect body cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Because free radical damage can lead to cancer, researchers are looking at how these substances may help protect against cancer. Some studies show people who eat more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables have lower risk for some cancers, but studies of antioxidant supplements have not proven the same benefit. Experts advise getting your antioxidants from a diet of healthy foods that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You’ve likely heard frequent and often conflicting news reports about how certain foods, vitamins or drugs may prevent—or cause—cancer. No single study can provide an answer to what causes or prevents cancer, so you shouldn’t change how you care for your health based on one news report—unless your doctor agrees. But research has yielded positive news on the cancer prevention front. Here’s what we know:

Produce pumps up protection

The American Cancer Society recommends eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day as part of a healthy, low-fat diet.

Some plant foods in particular may reduce colon and stomach cancer risk, such as:

  • cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage
  • green and dark yellow vegetables like spinach, romaine lettuce, carrots, squash and sweet potatoes
  • beans and soybean products

Vaccines that vanquish cancer

Because some cancers are triggered by a virus, vaccines to prevent certain viral infections can protect against cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider about these vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis B vaccine. This three- to four-shot series protects against contracting hepatitis B, a viral infection that may become chronic, leading to liver damage and liver cancer. Routine hepatitis B vaccination of children began in 1991.
  • HPV vaccine. This vaccine for girls and women protects against the two types of human papillomavirus (more than 100 exist) that cause most cases of cervical cancer as well as the two types that cause most genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for females ages 9 to 26.

A new benefit for a common drug

The drug raloxifene (brand name Evista), widely prescribed to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, also protects against invasive breast cancer. Raloxifene is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as only the second drug to prevent breast cancer. The first, tamoxifen, is a better option for premenopausal women.

Research continues, but so far, the most effective cancer preventives are those we’ve known for years. Lifestyle behaviors like not smoking, getting regular activity, protecting your skin from the sun and seeing your healthcare provider for timely screenings like mammograms, colonoscopy, Pap tests and prostate cancer tests shouldn’t be underestimated.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media