Nearly half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living. We wish we could tell you that preventing cancer is as simple as eating a certain food or doing a certain exercise or having a certain screening test, but we can’t. This much is clear: it’s the overall pattern of living that’s important.

Throughout your life — from childhood onward — it’s never too early to start developing healthy habits, and many can start in childhood and last throughout our lives. Here are some key habits that will help you reduce your risk of cancer:


Things to think about as you age...

In your 20s and 30s

  • Men and women — limit alcohol. Drinking any alcohol — beer, wine, or spirits — raises your risk of cancer. Keep it to a maximum of 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Men — know what’s normal for your testicles. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 29. See your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
  • Women — if you’ve ever been sexually active, you should start having a Pap test every 1 to 3 years by the time you’re 21. Know what’s normal for your breasts and tell your doctor if you notice any changes.

In your 40s

  • Men — talk to your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer and about the benefits and risks of finding it early. You may be at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer if you have a family history or if you are of African ancestry.
  • Women — talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography. Continue to have regular Pap tests.

In your 50s and 60s

  • Men and women — if you are aged 50 to 74 and not at high risk for colorectal cancer, have a stool test every 2 years. The stool tests check for hidden blood, which can be an early sign of colorectal cancer.
  • Men — continue to talk to your doctor about your risk of prostate cancer.
  • Women — if you are between the ages of 50 and 69, have a mammogram every 2 years. Continue to have regular Pap tests. Avoid taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for any reason other than to relieve severe menopausal symptoms that have not responded to other treatment. Long-term use of HRT increases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In your 70s

  • Men and women — talk to your doctor about which screening tests are right for you. You may not need certain screening tests anymore.

Know your body

Know what’s normal for you so you’re better able to notice any changes. Early signs of cancer include:

  • A new or unusual growth, lump, or swelling   anywhere on your body
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A change in the shape, size, or colour of a mole or wart
  • Blood in your urine, stool, or phlegm
  • Any unusual bleeding or discharge from your nipple or vagina
  • Any change in bladder or bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, pain, or problems urinating
  • A nagging cough, or a hoarse or croaky voice
  • Indigestion or problems swallowing
  • Weight loss, fever, tiredness, aches, or pains that you can’t explain