Saint Louis University

The Grand Vision Cancer Information Center provides valuable free cancer information. Saint Louis University Cancer Center has some of the most sophisticated screening and diagnostic tools to detect cancer, including genetic counseling, an advanced Breast Imaging Center, an endoscopy suite, computer tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) and MRI. The Information Center provides the information you need to navigate these resources.

The first step is to understand your risk for cancer. No one knows why cancer occurs, but individuals should be aware of and concerned about lifestyle, hereditary, environmental and medical risk factors. You have the most control over lifestyle risk factors. You should not use tobacco products because smoking, and even using smokeless tobacco, is directly linked to many kinds of cancer. Even being around secondhand smoke increases your risk for heart and lung disease, including cancer.

Avoid harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays since UV radiation from the sun or other sources, such as tanning booths and sunlamps, are the main cause of skin cancer. Avoid being in the sun when the UV rays are the strongest. A good general rule to follow is to avoid the sun when your shadow is shorter than you are. Use sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Zinc Oxide, or titanium dioxide, offers protection to sensitive areas such as the nose, ears, cheeks and shoulders. Protective clothing, such as hats, long-sleeved shirts or dark-colored clothing made of tightly woven fabric, also helps to block the sun's rays.

You are most likely to get cancer when an altered or changed gene is passed on from a parent. The link between genes and cancer is often strongest in families where cancer develops at a much younger age than normal, develops in more than one generation, more than one type of cancer develops in a close relative, or cancer develops in both breasts. Additionally, if breast cancer develops in a man, in several close relatives, or if several rare cancers develop in a family, hereditary factors are likely in play.

Environmental risk factors can play a part in an your cancer as well. Chemicals or substances used in workplaces may put you at an increased risk for some cancers. For instance, asbestos and radon are linked with a higher cancer risk. Try to reduce your exposure to these substances and always wear protective equipment when it is available.

Certain medical conditions may increase your risk for some cancers, such as colon polyps, an abnormal tissue growth in the lining of your bowel. Having had cancer before is a risk as well.