COMMENTARY: It’s National Cancer Prevention Month

As a member of the bipartisan Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, I want to share the following information as we observe National Cancer Prevention Month.

More than 1.8 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed and an estimated 606,520 will die from cancer in 2020. In Texas alone, 129,770 are expected to be diagnosed and 41,810 will die this year. But you can reduce your risk. Take charge of your health by taking these steps to prevent cancer.

>> Don’t smoke or use tobacco Smoking is responsible for most lung cancer cases, and tobacco use can cause at least 12 other types of cancer. The sooner you quit, the more you reduce your risk.

>> Protect your skin Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the U.S., usually caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. When you’re outside, wear broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30; wear a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing; and seek shade. Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative.

>> Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk for cancer.

Get at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity a week (60 minutes daily for youth).

>> Eat healthy Eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and fiber and limit red and processed meat. Limit alcohol, which is linked to increased risk of some cancers, to no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.

>> Get vaccinated The HPV vaccine can protect against the human papillomavirus, which causes most cervical cancer.

It is recommended for boys and girls ages 11-12; a catch-up vaccine is available for older teens and adults. The hepatitis B vaccine — recommended for babies, older children who haven’t been vaccinated, and adults who are at risk for the hepatitis B virus — can protect against liver cancer.

>> Learn your family medical history and get recommended screenings Your family medical history may determine if you need to be screened for certain cancers at a younger age — talk to your health care professional to see what’s recommended for you. Screening can find some cancers early, when they’re easier to treat.

January is about making resolutions for the year; make February about committing to your health — for life. To learn more, visit

Lorena Saenz Gonzalez is the spouse of Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.