You can lower your odds, even if cancer runs in your family. Middle-aged adults who drink moderately, exercise, eat right and don't smoke are three times more likely to be free of chronic diseases, including cancer.
I used to bake in the sun as a teen. Am I going to get skin cancer?
We can't deny it: The risk of skin cancer jumps when you have more than five sunburns. But despite those long-ago summers, you can still take steps today to slash your risks by half. Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day before heading out the door (yes, no matter what the weather is like) dramatically cuts your risk. And a 2017 analysis of 13 studies found that coffee drinkers had an 18 percent lower risk of basal cell carcinoma. (Note: Decaf didn't work.)
Does having one kind of cancer make me prone to other kinds?
Statistically, yes. If you smoked, you're at increased risk for not only lung cancer but also a dozen other cancers, including oral, cervical, bladder and pancreatic. And a Stanford University study found that people diagnosed with six or more basal cell carcinomas have more than three times the odds for developing future cancers, such as breast, colon and prostate cancer as well as leukemia and lymphoma — likely due to an underlying problem in genes that repair DNA. Plus, women who have had breast cancer are more at risk for another type of breast cancer, as well as other cancers. But remember, statistics apply to the general population, not to you as an individual. Talk to your doctor, and make sure to follow screening recommendations thoroughly.
I should get a colonoscopy, but I've been putting it off. What if I have colon cancer?
You probably don't have colon cancer, though your chances of developing it decrease if you have a colonoscopy, since it also allows the doctor to zap any precancerous polyps encountered during the procedure (aka cancer prevention). If you are simply spooked by the exam, you have other options. A fecal occult blood test, or fecal immunochemical test, involves sending a small stool sample to a lab, which analyzes it for blood. A stool DNA test (such as Cologuard) screens for cancer cells. The catch? These tests can't prevent cancer; they can only detect it, says gastroenterologist Darrell M. Gray, a member of the Cancer Control research program at Ohio State University in Columbus. And remember: If you test positive, the next step is a colonoscopy anyway.