In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cancer Prevention

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Primary Prevention

Public Health Cancer Prevention
John B. Lowe
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 January 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 January 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0119


Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. The purpose of cancer prevention is to reduce the probability of death by cancer. Cancer prevention occurs by avoiding risk factors and by early detection. Cancer prevention can be categorized as Primary or Secondary. Primary prevention includes avoiding of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and radiation exposure, as well as increasing protective factors, such as regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet, and using sun protection. Secondary prevention includes detecting the cancer early to arrest its progress and reduce its consequences once established.

Introductory Works

The literature on cancer prevention could fill a library. For early researchers interested in both primary and secondary prevention of cancer or public health specialists, policy analysts, and health care administrators and providers, the following are good information sources. Adami, et al. 2008 provides succinct overviews of the epidemiology and primary prevention for most types of cancer, while Curry, et al. 2003 reviews the scientific evidence on cancer prevention and early detection, offering specific and wide-ranging recommendations. Colditz and Hunter 2000 provide useful summaries of relevant literature, extensive reference lists at the end of each chapter, and recommended readings. Alberts and Hess 2005, on the status of practice and research in cancer prevention and control, is another essential reference text for anyone interested in cancer prevention, including primary-care practitioners and oncologists, as it provides practice guidelines and discusses future research directions. For global perspectives, the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research’s Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective is an expert report, the largest of its kind ever done to date. The report also provides a complete bibliography and presentation of the review of over 7,000 large-scale studies on diet, physical activity, and weight, and their effect on the risk for seventeen different types of cancer. Further systematic literature reviews were commissioned to underpin policy recommendations, and this was published as the Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention report, which presents recommendations of rational policies and effective actions at all levels, to achieve the public health goals set forth in the 2007 report. The World Health Organization also has a series of six modules advising on how to advocate, plan, and implement effective cancer control programs, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Although they are aimed at program managers and policymakers, these modules (especially “Prevention”; see World Health Organization 2007) are great sources of information for anyone interested in cancer control.

  • Adami, Hans-Olov, David John Hunter, and Dimitrios Trichopoulos, eds. 2008. Textbook of cancer epidemiology. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195311174.001.0001

    The textbook provides an overview of the epidemiology and primary prevention for most types of cancer. Of particular relevance is Part 2, which describes factors that have been generally accepted since the late 20th century as highly probable causes of cancers, and offers brief comments on primary prevention measures.

  • Alberts, David S., and Lisa M. Hess, eds. 2005. Fundamentals of cancer prevention. Berlin: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/b137426

    A good reference text on the status of practice and research in cancer prevention and control. Leading researchers, investigators and clinicians in cancer prevention and control collaborate to offer their insights into the prevention of major cancers, as well as practice guidelines and future research directions.

  • Colditz, Graham A., and David John Hunter, eds. 2000. Cancer prevention: The causes and prevention of cancer Volume 1. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

    DOI: 10.1007/0-306-47523-5

    This text provides a useful understanding for early researchers and health professionals interested in a general overview of cancer risk and prevention. Part 1 covers the causes of human cancer, and Part 2 discusses research on prevention programs, public education campaigns, and social policy measures for preventing cancer.

  • Curry, Susan J., Tim Byers, and Maria Elizabeth Hewitt, eds. 2003. Fulfilling the potential for cancer prevention and early detection. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    This text reviews the proof on cancer prevention and early detection, evaluates approaches used to alter lifestyle habits, discusses screening methods, examines cancer prevention and control opportunities in primary health care delivery settings, and reviews professional education and training programs, and also looks at research trends and opportunities.

  • World Cancer Research Fund, and American Institute for Cancer Research. 2009. Policy and action for cancer prevention: Food, nutrition, and physical activity; A global perspective. Washington, DC: American Institute for Cancer Research.

    This report contains some new estimates and addresses the underlying and basic causes that determine our dietary and activity patterns, covering the physical environment, social and economic determinants, and personal factors.

  • World Cancer Research Fund, and American Institute for Cancer Research. 2007. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: A global perspective. Washington, DC: American Institute for Cancer Research.

    This second expert report provides authoritative evidence that food, nutrition, and physical activity directly affect cancer risk. The report explains how the panel reached its conclusions and what they mean to researchers, educations, health practitioners, and policymakers, as well as offers up-to-date recommendations for individuals and populations based on the best evidence available.

  • World Health Organization. 2007. Cancer control: Knowledge into action, WHO guide for effective programmes—prevention. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

    This module, Prevention, provides an excellent overview of what works in cancer prevention (see “Planning Step 2”) as well as very practical advice on the stepwise approach to the prevention of the more common cancers.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.