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Journal of Cancer Prevention


J Cancer Prev 2020; 25(3): 127-135

Published online September 30, 2020

© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention

An Overview of Cancer Prevention: Chemoprevention and Immunoprevention

Kyle J. Gu1,2 , Guojun Li1,3

1Department of Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 2College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, 3Division of Epidemiology, The University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, TX, USA

Correspondence to :
Guojun Li, E-mail:,

Received: June 21, 2020; Revised: August 4, 2020; Accepted: August 14, 2020

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cancer prevention encompasses a broad spectrum of strategies designed to lower the chance of developing cancer and reduce the morbidity of established cancer. There are three levels of cancer prevention. Eliminating or mitigating cancer risk factors by adopting healthy behaviors and lifestyles, such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol use, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and applying sunscreen to protect against UV exposure, belongs to primary prevention and is the easiest and most effective way of preventing cancer for the general public. Secondary prevention includes screening to identify precancerous lesions and taking intervention measures to prevent disease progression to malignancy. Tertiary prevention refers to reducing or controlling the symptoms and morbidity of established cancer or the morbidity caused by cancer therapy. For high-risk populations, chemopreventive agents, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators (including tamoxifan and raloxifene) in breast cancer prevention and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin) in colorectal cancer prevention, and immunoprevention using human papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus vaccines in infection-related cancers have shown clear clinical benefits of reducing cancer incidences. In this review, we will summarize the current status of cancer prevention, focusing on the major agents that are clinically used for chemoprevention and immunoprevention.

Keywords: Chemoprevention, Immunoprevention, Selective estrogen receptor modulators, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, Vaccines

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