The National Cancer Institute estimated that in 2013 there would be over 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. and over a half-million cancer-related deaths. Just about everyone knows someone who's had some kind of cancer and when it's in the family, concerns about our own risk run deep.
But predicting cancer is not easy. After all, it is not just one disease but actually a grouping of over 100 different diseases that all share the common characteristic of abnormal cell division and invasion. Fortunately, there are some ways to get an idea of your personal cancer risk. There are even fairly simple changes you can make now to significantly improve your chances of staying cancer-free, says Graham Colditz, associate director for prevention and control at Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center. "We don't have to be fatalistic that we're all going to get cancer," says Colditz. No one can guarantee you'll avoid cancer but informing yourself about the different predictors and taking health precautions is a good place to start.
Cancer screening has become a very hot topic of debate. For men, the question of whether or not to get screened for prostate cancer is the big one. Even the American Cancer Society only goes so far as advising a discussion about screening at age 50 because there is actually a lot of risk associated with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. "If you look hard enough, you'll find cancer lesions," says Colditz. In fact, around 13 percent of men who get a PSA end up with a false alarm and over 10 years, 20 percent will be biopsied. A third of men who are biopsied experience problems afterward and no one has definitively proved that PSA's save lives. The lesson with screening is talk to your doctor in-depth about it first.
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