Cancer Prevention and Screening

The best way to prevent some cancers is to learn what steps you can take to reduce your risk and how to catch cancer early.

There are many different types of cancer. The most common types of cancer in NYC are skin, breast, prostate, lung and colorectal. In all types of cancer, cells grow out of control, spreading to other parts of the body and causing health problems.

Each year in the city:

  • Doctors diagnose about 39,000 people with cancer.
  • Cancer is the second-leading cause of death, after heart disease. More than 13,000 residents die from cancer.

Risk Factors

Different types of cancers have different risk factors. You may be more likely to get cancer if you:

  • Are older (the older you get, the higher your risk)
  • Have a family history of cancer
  • Smoke
  • Are obese
  • Are exposed to the sun or ultraviolet (UV) radiation frequently
  • Drink alcohol (drinking even a small amount of alcohol can increase your risk for certain cancers)

People with risk factors will not necessarily get cancer, and people without risk factors can still get it. We don’t always know why some people get cancer and some people do not.

The best way to prevent cancer is to take every step possible to lower your risk.


Vaccines may prevent some types of cancer. For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may prevent cervical cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine may reduce the risk of liver cancer.

Screening can prevent cancer or find the cancer early, when it is easier to treat. The different cancer screenings you should discuss with your doctor include:

  • A mammography to look for breast cancer, if you are a woman
  • A pap test to look for cervical cancer, if you are a woman
  • A colonoscopy or a blood stool test to look for colon cancer
  • A low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) to look for lung cancer, if you are a current or former smoker

If you are at a high risk for other cancers, your doctor may recommend other screening tests. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening for you. If you do not have a doctor, call 311.

Additional Resources

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