The good news about cancer

You can reduce your risk

Experts say that 50 percent of all U.S. cancers could be prevented if people took basic steps to reduce their risks. For a personalized risk assessment for 12 of the most common cancers, fill out a brief online questionnaire -- "Your Cancer Risk" -- at the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention's Web site, Then click on the recommended lifestyle changes and watch your risk drop. For example, to dramatically lower your odds of getting cervical cancer, don't smoke, get regular Pap tests, limit sex partners and use condoms or a diaphragm. -- M.E.S.

Breastfeeding prevents breast cancer

Nursing a baby for a year can reduce breast cancer risk by about 50 percent, compared to women who've never breastfed, Yale University School of Medicine researchers report.

Which pill prevents cancer best?

Oral contraceptives, pregnancy and breastfeeding all decrease ovarian-cancer risk, probably by suppressing ovulation. Now, a Duke University Medical Center study sheds light on how else O.C.'s might fight the disease: The progestin (a form of progesterone) they contain may make cancer-prone cells in the ovaries self-destruct. Women who'd taken the pill for three months or more had lower ovarian-cancer rates than non-users, but women who took high-progestin varieties (like Ovulen and Demulen) lowered their risk twice as much as those who took low-progestin types (like Enovid-E and Ovcon). Estrogen content made no difference. -- D.P.L.

Milk: it does a colon good

People who drank the most milk of any kind (except for buttermilk) were least likely to develop colon cancer over a 24-year period, an analysis of nearly 10,000 Europeans' milk-drinking habits found. The researchers concluded that the protection was not due to either the calcium or the vitamin D in milk and speculated that lactose (milk sugar) might encourage the growth of friendly bacteria that help protect against cancer. -- K.D.

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