Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine

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Prevention Tips and Screening Guidelines

Simmons Cancer Institute's Screening Guidelines provide information about early detection and prevention for you, your family and friends.

Cancer is most treatable when it's found early. Medical experts have developed screening guidelines to detect some types of cancers at their earliest, most treatable stage before any signs or symptoms develop.

  • There are early detection screening tests for breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and skin cancers.
  • Self-examination and knowledge of family history are important for early detection and screening.

Prevention Tips

View Cancer Screening Guidelines


  • Nutrition
  • Physical Activity
  • Tobacco Usage
  • Sun Exposure

Impact of Diet and Cancer

It is estimated that 30-40% of cancer cases are preventable through diet. People whose diets are rich in fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of getting certain cancers. These include cancers of the lung, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. They are less likely to get cancers of the breast, pancreas, ovaries, larynx and bladder and may reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Not only does a diet high in fruit and vegetables help to protect against cancer, it lowers a person’s risk of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Fruit and vegetables are lower in calories than processed food and help with maintaining a healthy body weight. Eating a healthy diet, which include fruit and vegetables helps achieve overall health and well being.

5-9 Daily Servings of Fruits and VegetablesEat Your Vegetables

Experts recommend consuming 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This includes consuming 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables. Vegetables should include 1 to 2 servings of dark-green and deep yellow vegetables. White potatoes show no evidence of protecting against cancer.

Learning to eat more fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as easy as adding fruit to cereal or eating an apple instead of a bag of potato chips. Try adding a serving of fruit and vegetables at each of the three daily meals and as a snack. To learn more about eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables, visit

Low Fat Diet

Studies indicate a link between a diet high in fat and certain cancers, particularly colon, prostate, and endometrial cancers. Eating a diet low in fat can help maintain a healthy body weight. Try avoiding or limiting fried, greasy and fatty foods. Using olive oil or canola oil instead of shortening or lard can cut down on saturated fats. When grocery shopping, shop around the perimeter of the store verses going down the aisles. This helps to limit purchasing packaged foods which are higher in fats. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10 percent of calories come from saturated fatty acids and no more than 30 percent from total fat.

Body Weight

Studies show a link between obesity and cancer. Experts conclude that obesity is associated with cancers of the colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium, kidney, and esophagus; and possibly gallbladder, ovarian and pancreas cancers. Eat three balanced meals a day with snacks when hungry. Incorporate 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables with your meals and snacks and choose low fat foods. This coupled with a physical activity routine will help to achieve a healthy body weight.


Women who consume more than one alcohol drink and men who consume more than two alcohol drinks a day increase their risk for certain cancers. For both men and women these include mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx and liver cancers. For women it increases the risk for breast cancer. Heavy alcohol use may increase the risk of ovarian cancer for women and colorectal cancer for both men and women. Using tobacco and alcohol increases the risk for head and neck cancers.

Physical Activity and Cancer

It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of some of the most common cancers in the United States may be related to being overweight and/or physical inactivity. These cancers include breast, prostate, colon, kidney, and uterine cancers.

Recent studies indicate that up to 14 percent of cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women may be attributable to overweight and obesity.

Not only is physical activity important for reducing the risk of certain cancers, it’s beneficial in reducing other chronic diseases such as heart disease. It also reduces overweight and obesity. However, despite the compelling evidence of the benefit of physical activity, most Americans do not engage in regular physical activity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults engage in moderate-intensity physical activity a minimum of 30 minutes on five or more days a week or engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three or more days a week.

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include:

  • Walking
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Recreational swimming
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Moderate housework
  • Hiking

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:

  • Running
  • Bi-cycling (more than 10mph)
  • Step aerobics
  • Circuit weight training
  • Most competitive sports

These are just a few examples of types of physical activity.
For additional information on physical activity and types of activity see

Tobacco and Cancer

Cigarettes and Cancer

Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Quit SmokingOne in five deaths in the United States is attributable to smoking. Not only does it contribute significantly to coronary heart disease, it causes approximately 30% of cancer deaths each year. It is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. It causes cancers of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, pharynx, and bladder. It also plays a role in pancreas, kidney and cervical cancers. The CDC states that tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemical agents, about 70 substances known to cause cancer.

Quitting smoking reduces the risk of getting cancers. Ten years after quitting smoking, the risk of getting lung cancer is reduced to about one-third to one-half of those who continue to smoke. It also reduces the risk of getting cancers caused by tobacco smoke. The quickest non-cancer health benefit of quitting smoking is lowering the risk of coronary heart disease. The risk is cut by half one year after quitting smoking.

Cigars and Cancer

Cigar use is on the rise, particularly among young men and woman. Cigars are different from cigarettes. They are typically made up of a single air-cured or dried burley tobacco. The fermentation process causes the tobacco to taste and smell different than cigarettes. They come in different sizes. A large cigar can contain as much tobacco as a whole pack of cigarettes.

Cigar smoking increases the risk of death from lung, oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat), esophagus and larynx cancers. For those who inhale, cigar smoking is linked to pancreas and bladder cancers. The risk of death from larynx, oral and esophageal cancers is four to ten times greater compared to non-smokers. It is even higher for those who smoke more than three cigars a day.

Smokeless Tobacco

There are two types of smokeless tobacco. Snuff is a finely ground or shredded tobacco. Chewing tobacco is loose leaf, plug or twist forms. Smokeless tobacco is also called spit or spitting tobacco. Both types of smokeless tobacco contain 28 cancer causing agents.

Smokeless tobacco causes many negative health effects including oral cancer. This includes cancers of the mouth, throat and pharynx. Oral cancer is difficult to treat. More than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. There are more than 8,000 deaths every year from oral cancer.

Smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, is made of two forms of smoke. Sidestream smoke comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Mainstream smoke is the smoke exhaled by the smoker.

Secondhand smoke also causes numerous health effects including cancer. It is a known risk factor for lung cancer. Annually in the United States, there are approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths as a result of exposure to second hand smoke. Secondhand smoke is also linked to sinus and nasal cancer. While more research is needed, research is beginning to associate secondhand smoke with cervical, breast and bladder cancers.

It is important for non tobacco users to avoid secondhand smoke to reduce their risks of cancer and other chronic health conditions.


It is important to quit using tobacco. Talk to your physician about quitting smoking. There are numerous resources to assist with quitting tobacco use. Many hospitals and organizations offer cessation services. Following are a few, but certainly not the only, resources to obtain information on quitting smoking.

American Lung Association
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute

Skin Cancer Prevention

What is skin cancer?

There are three types of skin cancer.

  1. Basal cell carcinoma is a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma are referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancer
  3. Melanoma develops from melanocytes. Squamous cells form the outer layer of skin and basal cells are found beneath the squamous cells.

Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Approximately 1 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer will occur each year. Ninety percent of all skin cancers in the United States are basal cell carcinoma. The main cause of nonmelamona skin cancer is from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or articifical sources such as sunlamps and tanning booths. Most skin cancers occur after the age of 50 as a result of cumulative UV exposure.


Melanoma is a disease of melanocytes which are pigment cells. It typically occurs in the skin, but can occur in other areas where there are melanocytes such as the eyes, digestive tract, and lymph nodes. The exact causes of melanoma are unknown. Risk factors include atypical moles, numerous moles, fair skin, personal history of melanoma or skin cancer, family history of melanoma, weakened immune system, history of severe blistering sunburns, and exposure to UV radiation. Melanoma will sometimes appear as a change in an existing mole or as a new mole. People can use the ABCD method when looking for changes in mole characteristics.

  1. Asymmetry, the shape of one half does not match the other
  2. Border, the edges are ragged, notches, blurred, or irregular in outline or the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
  3. Color, uneven color with shades of black, brown, and tan or areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may be visible. Occasionally, melanoma can be the same color as the rest of the skin.
  4. Diameter, there is a change in size. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil, but may be smaller.


  • Limit sun exposure – Reduce exposure during peak UV times (the sun is the strongest from 11am – 3pm).
  • Wear protective clothing – Wear clothes that cover the skin such as long sleeves and a hat.
  • Use Sunscreen – Use a minimum of an SPF 15. SPF is sun protection factor. The number indicates the protection factor. For example, if you normally burn in 10 minutes while unprotected, an SPF will protect 15 times that or 150 minutes. The higher the SPF number, the higher the protective factor. Follow directions when using sunscreen. Apply liberally and prior to going out into the sun. You may need to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating and as recommended in the directions. Sunscreen should never be used on infants six months and younger.
  • Don’t use artificial sun sources – Avoid using tanning booths and sunlamps. They produce UV radiation.

Remember, a tan is a sign of skin damage. No tan is a safe tan.



Additional Resources


Hereditary Genitourinary
Cancer Questionnaire

The purpose of this questionnaire is to help you decide if you have inherited forms of kidney or prostate cancer that could be diagnosed and better managed through the services of Urology and Clinical Genetics at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

SCI PDF Handouts

"Nutrition and Cancer"

"Physical Activity and Cancer"

"Tobacco and Cancer"

"Skin Cancer"