Skip to main content
An official website of the United States government

Prevent Cancer - National Cancer Plan

Goal: All people and society adopt proven strategies that reduce the risk of cancer.

Imagine if most cancers never occurred. This is becoming more possible, as scientists estimate that we could prevent more than half of all cancers by better applying knowledge we already have. That means taking what we know about the risk factors for, causes of, and development of many cancers and using that information to better monitor and identify anything abnormal before it becomes cancer and to encourage behaviors that help minimize the risk of getting cancer.

A purple, circular icon with a photo of an elderly man and woman in activewear, walking and laughing together. Above them are the words Prevent Cancer.

The state of cancer prevention today

Many approaches to cancer prevention involve taking steps to reduce one’s risk of developing cancer, such as quitting smoking, wearing sunscreen, and keeping up to date with cancer screenings.

But changing human behavior is not easy. Getting more people to adopt and follow these preventive behaviors, especially among groups that have been medically underserved, could significantly lower the number of people being diagnosed with cancer.

Researchers also continue to study how to reduce cancer disparities, limit exposure to risk factors, and intercept cancer (identify and treat certain lesions before they become cancer), among other prevention approaches. However, there is still a great need for more research to understand what causes precancers and how they develop so that we can create effective prevention or interception methods for all cancers.

Strategies to advance cancer prevention

  • Investigate what causes cancer and how precancers develop based on a person’s genetics, behavior, environment, and health history
  • Create and test ways to promote preventive behaviors to individuals and communities
  • Eliminate infections that lead to cancer
  • Create vaccines that prevent cancer
  • Develop approaches to limit exposure to toxins
  • Increase focus on cancer prevention clinical trials
  • Overcome health disparities at all levels and in all aspects of cancer prevention research

Examples of NCI-supported research to achieve this goal

  • Cancer centers are building and offering programs to help people with cancer quit smoking through the Cancer Center Cessation Initiative.
  •  Clinical trials are testing two different vaccines to prevent or delay the onset of cancers associated with Lynch syndrome.
  • The PREVENT program is supporting development of the best ideas in cancer prevention, with a focus on currently unmet needs.

Examples of activities across the government to achieve this goal

Learn more about this goal
  • Updated:

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Prevent Cancer - National Cancer Plan was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”