updated 10/23/2007 8:15:49 AM ET 2007-10-23T12:15:49

Prevention joined forces with a premier cancer research organization, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, to ask: How afraid are you of cancer? What do you do to prevent it? You impressed us with your knowledge — but we still discovered plenty of small changes that you could make to keep this fearsome disease at bay.

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We surveyed 800 women age 18+; Telephone Poll conducted by Gelb consulting.

You're afraid ... that getting cancer is out of your control
20% of you feel no control
22% feel little control
42% feel some control
9% feel a lot of control
7% don't know

But … you're more in charge than you think
63% of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, or being overweight, based on data from the American Cancer Society, calculates Jennifer Irvin Vidrine, PhD, an assistant professor at M. D. Anderson and lead analyst of our survey.

"Simply eating two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables every day can reduce your risk," says Vidrine.

Exercising at least 150 minutes per week (that's a 30-minute session, 5 days a week, for example) also protects against cancer.

The attitude that fights cancer
How secure you feel about your social status (your professional, financial, and community standing) affects whether you practice cancer-preventing habits — regardless of your actual profession or income, says Vidrine. Women who give themselves a higher status on a scale of 1 to 10 are more likely to:

  • Eat the recommended amount of servings of fruits (two) and vegetables (three) every day
  • Get a mammogram

You pay attention to … your family history
You're 2 1/2 times more likely to feel at risk of cancer if an immediate family member has had the disease.

But … your health habits are just as important as your gene pool
Although family history can increase your risk, most cancers occur in people who have no family history of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

The three unhealthiest habits in America all increase your odds of cancer:

  1. 1. Tobacco use (causes 435,000 deaths): Single biggest risk factor for lung cancer
  2. 2. Poor diet and sedentary lifestyle (400,000 deaths): Plays a role in at least one-third of all cancers
  3. 3. Alcohol (85,000 deaths): Linked to breast, mouth, esophageal, and liver cancers

Is Alzheimer's disease the new cancer?
What you think: 60% of you say you are more concerned about developing Alzheimer's than cancer.

The verdict: You're wrong. Alzheimer's kills 65,829 Americans a year, compared with 550,270 who die of cancer.

What you think: 68% of you say that you're more concerned about developing heart disease than cancer.

The verdict: You're right. Heart disease kills 654,092 Americans a year, making it the nation's number one killer.

56% of you have a close friend or relative who's been diagnosed with cancer

You're getting tested … for female-specific cancers
92% of you who are age 40 and older have had a mammogram to detect breast cancer (85% of that group in the past 2 years).

94% of you have had a Pap test to detect cervical cancer.

But ... you're ignoring colon cancer (the third leading cancer killer of women)
Only 57% of you who are age 50 and older have had the recommended colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy.

You try to practice good habits ... but there's room to improve

Smart habit: Healthy diet
79% of you believe it protects against cancer
81% of you say you do it
31% of you who actually do it (get the recommended servings of fruit [two per day]; only 12% get enough veggies [three servings a day] based on your answers to our specific diet and exercise questions)

Smart habit: Regular exercise
73% of you believe it protects against cancer
73% of you say you do it 
32% of you actually do it (get 150 minutes per week — the minimum recommended for cancer prevention — based on your answers to our specific diet and exercise questions)

Copyright© 2012 Rodale Inc.All rights reserved. No reproduction, transmission or display is permitted without the written permissions of Rodale Inc.

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