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Cancer Awareness Month

February – National Cancer Prevention Month


Primary prevention refers to actions taken by individuals, communities or governments to protect against the occurrence of cancer. Adopting specific strategies such as avoiding use of tobacco products and exposure to second-hand smoke, minimizing alcohol intake, following a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and protecting against ultraviolet exposure can reduce cancer risk. Other behaviors linked to cancer prevention include breastfeeding, practicing healthy sexual behaviors and obtaining appropriate vaccinations.

The California Dialogue on Cancer (CDOC) coalition recently released California’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan for 2011-2015. In this Plan, there is a specific focus on Primary Prevention of cancer.

The Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan has set the following Primary Prevention objectives for California:

  • Increase use of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines – HPV is spread through sexual contact, and certain strains are known to cause cervical cancer in women. HPV vaccines are now available and have been shown to be very effective against the HPV strains that cause most cervical cancers (Source: CDC). The Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan’s objective for HPV is to increase the percentage of girls 13-17 years old that have completed the HPV vaccine three-shot series.
  • Reduce the prevalence of obesity – Scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of cancer deaths are due to nutrition and physical activity factors, including excess weight (Source: California Facts and Figures 2012). Research has also found an association between obesity and specific cancer types including cancers of the colon, breast (postmenopausal), lining of the uterus, kidney and esophagus (Source: NCI). To reduce obesity rates in California, the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan includes objectives to increase the percentage of farmers’ markets in California that accept electronic benefits transfers (EBTs) for payment, increase the daily consumption of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables among California adults, and increase the percent of California adults who participate in moderate or vigorous physical activities.
  • Reduce tobacco use – Approximately 85 percent of lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoking, which also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, nasal cavities, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterine cervix, and of myeloid leukemia (Source: California Facts and Figures 2012). The Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan objectives for tobacco use focus on decreasing the prevalence of adult tobacco use and decreasing the prevalence of high school youth tobacco use.
  • Reduce ultraviolet (UV) light exposure – Skin cancer of all kinds is associated with exposure to the sun (Source: California Facts and Figures 2012). Thus, the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan objectives for this topic set out to decrease the proportion of adults 18 years and older who have had a sunburn in the past 12 months and reduce the proportion of children under 12 years old who have had a sunburn within the previous 12 months.

For additional information about these specific objectives and prevention strategies for achieving them, please visit the California Dialogue on Cancer’s website to download the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan for 2011-2015.

Programmatic Resources Available through the California Department of Public Health (CDPH):