Early detection is your best protection. General screening recommendations listed with different color ribbons for each type of cancer. Breast cancer: ages 40 to 74; Cervical cancer: ages 21 to 65; Colon cancer: ages 45 to 85; Lung cancer (if you smoke or smoked): ages 50 to 80.

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Cancer Prevention and Screening

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death, after heart disease in New York City. It is one of the leading causes of premature death. The most common types of cancer are skin, breast, prostate, lung and colon/rectum.

Learn what steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting cancer and how to catch it early.

Risk Factors

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

  • Are older (many cancers are more common in older adults)
  • Have a family history of cancer
  • Smoke
  • Have obesity
  • Are exposed to the sun or ultraviolet (UV) radiation frequently
  • Drink alcohol

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

Reducing Your Risk

To lower your risk of some types of cancer:

  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reduce the amount and how often you drink alcohol.

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 health care provider include:

  • A mammogram to look for breast cancer
  • A Pap test or HPV test to look for cervical cancer
  • A colonoscopy or stool (feces) test to look for colon cancer
  • A low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan to look for lung cancer, if you currently smoke or have a history of smoking in the past 15 years

If you are at a high risk for certain cancers, your provider may recommend other screening tests or more frequent testing. Talk to your provider about the benefits and risks of screening for you.


Most insurance plans cover cancer preventive services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, without a copay. If you do not have insurance, you may be eligible to sign up for low- or no-cost coverage. You can also get free in-person assistance signing up for a plan.

Additional Resources

More Information