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Current treatments of cancer are imperfect and entail risks. For many malignancies, the best “treatment” is to prevent the cancer from ever appearing in the first place. Cancer prevention refers to interventions that reduce the incidence of cancer. Such interventions can include reduction of exposure to known carcinogens (e.g., tobacco), treatment with drugs that lower cancer risk (chemoprevention), vaccination against infectious agents that cause cancer, surgery to remove organs at high risk of developing cancer in individuals with familial cancer syndromes, or the adoption of a “healthy lifestyle” that modifies cancer risk. Cancer screening shares some concepts with cancer prevention. A screening test like colonoscopy that results in the removal of polyps that have the potential of progressing to cancer can be a form of cancer prevention. Cancer screening is also utilized to find an established cancer at an early, treatable stage. Cancer screening tests are employed in healthy, asymptomatic patients so it is imperative that these tests are safe and effective. This chapter in Cancer Concepts: A Guidebook for the Non-Oncologist will provide a brief review of cancer prevention and screening.


University of Massachusetts Medical School


Worcester, MA


cancer prevention, cancer screening, screening tests


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Medical Education | Neoplasms | Oncology


This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. HHSN276201100010C with the University of Massachusetts, Worcester.

Cancer Prevention and Screening



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