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.
There has been some research looking into whether blood levels of certain vitamins are good indicators of someone's cancer risk but don't get too invested just yet. "That is one of the messier areas of study," says Colditz. It's particularly messy when it comes to vitamin D. Some studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of breast and colon cancers but other studies have shown that high levels can also indicate elevated risk of certain cancers. A 2013 study found that high B12 levels may be a marker for several kinds of cancer but, again, the research is just beginning.
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