Primary prevention gives control to the individual in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and environment to mitigate
cancer risk.

Control of Risk Factors

Smoking/Tobacco Use

  • Tobacco use increases the risk of cancer of the lungs, oesophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix
  • Health workers must educate patients on the dangers of tobacco consumption and smoking; patients should be
    encouraged and supported to stop

Obesity and Lifestyle

  • Being overweight or obese results in an increased risk of cancer, specifically oesophageal, colorectal, breast,
    endometrial, and kidney
  • Heath workers must advise patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with regular physical activity and a healthy diet

Alcohol Use

  • Abusive alcohol habits increase the risk of cancer of the oral cavity, oesophagus, larynx, liver, colorectal, and breast
  • Health workers should educate patients of the dangers of excessive and regular alcohol consumption, while promoting healthier alcohol habits that limit consumption

Environmental Pollution

  • Regular exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in the environment can occur through unsafe drinking water, air
    pollution, and food contaminated by aflatoxin or dioxin chemicals, occupational exposure to dangerous gases or dusts
  • Environmental carcinogens (aflatoxins, asbestos, vehicle emissions, lead, ultraviolet light, and ionizing radiation) will lead to increased risk of developing cancer, e.g. lung cancer
  • Health workers must educate patients on environmental dangers and provide suggestions to limit exposure such as:
    • Limiting indoor air pollution due to smoke from use of charcoal and firewood inside a poorly ventilated house
    • Avoiding fumes from cars
    • Avoiding exposure to garbage pollution (burning rubbish)
    • Employers should provide employees with a safe working environment with limited occupational hazards


  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and in particular solar radiation, is carcinogenic to humans, causing all major
    types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma

    • People with albinism are at a much higher risk of skin  cancer and health workers should encourage them to wear protective clothing and wide brimmed hats
  • Ionizing radiation from radioactive isotopes (used in medical diagnostics and treatment) is also associated with
    leukaemia and other solid tissue tumours. Proper disposal of highly radioactive isotopes is mandatory to prevent hazardous exposures

Prevention of Infections

The following infections are associated with causing certain types of cancer:

  • Viral Hepatitis B/C: cancer of the liver
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): cervical cancer
  • Helicobacter Pylori: stomach cancer
  • HIV/AIDS: aggressive lymphoma subtypes, Kaposi’s sarcoma, anorectal cancer, cervical cancer, etc
  • Schistosomiasis: increases risk of bladder cancer
  • Liver Fluke: increases risk of cholangio-carcinoma

Preventative measures to control infection risk include vaccination, and prevention/treatment of infection and

  • HPV Vaccination: immunize all girls from age 10 with 2 doses of HPV vaccine (see section 18.1)
  • Hepatitis B Vaccination: routinely offered in the national childhood schedule and populations at risk, in order to prevent infection with hepatitis B, the main risk factor for liver cancer (see section 18.2.1)
  • Treatment of HIV/AIDS, schistosomiasis, H. pylori, and hepatitis B&C and other infections is also a preventive