Primary and Secondary Cancer Prevention Strategies

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According to the American Cancer Society, colon or colorectal cancer is the second most prevalent cancer among Asian Americans. The community is also the fastest growing population groups in the United States of America. Martinez (2005) reports “researchers and medical experts have made significant progress in identifying factors that modify the risk of colorectal cancer”. Data from various studies continues to advance the world’s understanding of various factors that increase or reduces a person’s risk of contracting colorectal cancer. Such factors include diet, lifestyle, certain types of drugs and medication, and other medical interventions before the clinical appearance of cancer with the aim of preventing mortality.

Using Martinez’s (2005) definition, “primary prevention is defined as the identification and avoidance of cancer in the environment or lifestyle factors related to carcinogenesis”. Diet plays a significant role in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Foods such as fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are responsible for neutralizing free radicals that can cause cancer of the colon. In addition, “studies in genetic epidemiology and molecular biology show that genetic-nutritional interactions form the basis of the development of cancer” (Shike et al., 1990).

A report by Giovannucci and Chan (2010) indicates that high intake sugars, refined grains and starches, and red and processed meat can increase a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. The study further indicates that replacing these foods with plant proteins, white meats and unsaturated fats can lower a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Although the role of supplements, including vitamins and minerals remain uncertain, calcium supplementation has been recorded as modestly beneficial in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Other primary prevention methods include adopting an active and healthy lifestyle and cutting on habits that put one at a risk of cancer. Smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are associated with a low risk of colorectal cancer. The use of certain types of medicines has also been associated with minimized risks of the disease. According to the report by Giovannucci and Chan (2010), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin and some postmenopausal female hormone supplements have been recorded to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Asian Americans are known to be generally careful with what they eat, and much of their diet is natural foods, which helps them stay healthy. Their diets are merited for being low in fat and sugar. However, their diets are low in protein because they largely consume cereals and vegetables, and this need to change to a more balanced way of eating to ensure the body gets all the macronutrients that it needs to boost immunity. In addition, their sedentary lifestyle needs to change to more physically active habits.

To use Carethers’ (2010), definition, secondary prevention “indicates that a person has already had the disease, and there are steps being taken to prevent cancer recurrence, usually as metachronous tumors”. This involves regular screening or colonoscopy after the initial parts of cancer has been removed. Genetic testing for people whose family members have suffered the disease before can also help identify candidates for secondary prevention. However, a report published by Wu et al. (2010) reveals that the Asian American has a low colorectal cancer screening rate, a habit that needs to change for them to be helped.

Other secondary prevention strategies include close follow-up, and a relevant and good health care provider such as a general physician and a gastroenterologist. It is important to note that, in secondary prevention, timing is critical to avoid advanced diseases, which minimize a patient’s chance of surviving. The method used is also dependent on the patient’s general health and the biological behavior of the tumor.


Carethers, J.M. (2010). Secondary prevention of colorectal cancer: Is there an optimal follow-up for patients with colorectal cancer? Current Colorectal Cancer Reports, 6(1), 24-29.Retrieved from

Giovannucci, E.L. & Chan, A.T. (2010). Primary prevention of colorectal cancer.Gastroenterology, 138 (6), 2029-2043.

Martinez, M.E. (2005). Primary prevention of colorectal cancer: Lifestyle, nutrition and exercise.RRCR, 166, 177-211.

Shike et al. (1990). Primary prevention of colorectal cancer. The WHO Collaborating Centre forthe Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 68(3),377-85. Retrieved from

Wu et al. (2010). Effective colorectal cancer education for Asian Americans: A Michiganprogram. Journal of Cancer Education, 25(2), 146-52.Retrieved from