Cancer prevention

Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance (risk) of developing cancer. Not all cancers can be prevented, but there are things we can do to lower the chance of getting many types of cancer.  


All of us have a part to play in preventing cancer. 


You and your whānau can take steps to lower your chances of developing cancer. The government can introduce policies like those that protect children from second-hand smoke and ban dangerous products like asbestos. Local councils can provide shade in public spaces. Workplaces can protect staff from dangerous chemicals. 


At the Cancer Society we advocate for cancer prevention policies and provide programmes, information, and support. 

Some of the ways that we can reduce our risk of cancers: 



Ask your health provider about: 


  • Vaccinating your child against HPV and Hepatitis B.  Infection with these viruses can lead to cancer but there are free vaccines to prevent them. 
  • A test for hepatitis C or H. pylori if you think you are at risk or have symptoms. These infections can be cured with medicines so that they don't lead to cancer.  
  • Know your family history of cancer and speak to your doctor– you may need extra tests starting from a younger age.   

Understanding cancer risk

The causes of cancer are complex and it’s usually not clear why some people develop cancer and others don’t. Your risk for developing cancer depends on many different things, such as ageing, your genetic makeup, and how often you have had contact with harmful things such as specific workplace chemicals, radiation, tobacco and alcohol.


Things that increase our chances of getting cancer are called risk factors. Having one or more risk factor does not mean that you will develop cancer, but it may increase your risk.


Some cancer risk factors that we face are outside of our control, such as getting older. Other risk factors can be avoided. Being Smokefree, eating healthy, being active, drinking no or less alcohol and protecting our skin can give us the best chance against several types of cancer. Regular screening and getting our children vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B are also important ways to protect ourselves and our whānau.   


It’s important to see your doctor if you have any unusual signs and symptoms.

For more information: find cancer earlier. 

Last updated: January 9, 2023