Many cancer risk factors can be addressed

April is National Cancer Control Awareness Month and a great time to raise awareness of cancer prevention, detection, and treatment methods as well as to give support to cancer patients and survivors.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in New York State, but it doesn’t have to be. Many risk factors that contribute to cancer are controllable.

A key action to preventing cancer, or catching it early, is staying up to date on recommended cancer screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. When found early, cancer growths can be removed before they develop into cancer. Getting the human papillomavirus vaccine can prevent cervical cancer from ever developing.

In addition to regular screening, engaging in healthy behaviors may reduce your risk of developing cancer. If you use tobacco, quit. Help is available through the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (1-866-697-8487). Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers; enjoy a low-fat diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit time in the sun and use sunscreen year-round. Avoid tanning beds; youth use increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, and people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma. Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week, which may help reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

The spring is a great time to make small, healthy lifestyle changes that can have a big impact on cancer prevention and our overall health. It’s paramount that we recognize months designed to educate the people of our communities on cancer prevention, and to rededicate ourselves to the fight against this devastating disease.

The Cancer Services Program is available to New Yorkers in every county, and provides free mammograms and pap tests to women ages 40-64 and colorectal cancer screening kits to men and women 50-64 who do not have health insurance. These screenings are also a covered benefit through Medicaid, as well as health plans participating in the New York State of Health marketplace.

For more information, please call Suzanne Hagadorn at 770-6814.

SUZANNE HAGADORN, health education and promotion coordinator, Cancer Services Program of Fulton, Montgomery and

Schenectady Counties