The American Cancer Society has created guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cancer. Read complete versions of all our guidelines, find patient-friendly versions, and learn more about how ACS develops its recommendations here.
The ACS develops guidelines for cancer screening and prevention to meet the needs of clinicians, the general public, and policy.
Screening Guidelines Development Process
Since 1980, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has introduced and periodically updated guidelines or guidance related to screening and/or informed decision-making about tests for early detection of cancers (and, in some cases, precursor lesions) of the breast, cervix, colon and rectum, endometrium, lung, and prostate. These screening guidelines have evolved with new scientific data, as new screening technologies became available, and as standards for creating guidelines changed.
Prevention Guidelines Development Process
For people who do not use tobacco, the most important modifiable determinants of cancer risk are weight control, dietary choices, and levels of physical activity.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) publishes the Diet and Physical Activity Guideline to serve as a foundation for its communication, policy, and community strategies and, ultimately, to affect dietary and physical activity patterns among people living in the US. This guideline is developed by a national panel of experts in cancer research, prevention, epidemiology, public health, and policy, it reflects the most current scientific evidence related to dietary and activity patterns and cancer risk. The guideline focuses on recommendations for individual choices but also present recommendations for community action to create a supportive social and physical environment in which individuals have genuine opportunities to choose healthy behaviors. The guideline is updated every 5-7 years, as new evidence accumulates.
These guidelines address the populations for whom testing is recommended or not recommended, the recommended tests and testing intervals, and the benefits, limitations, and harms associated with testing for early cancer detection.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults at average risk for colorectal cancer undergo regular screening starting at age 45, with either a high-sensitivity stool-based test or a structural (visual) examination. As a part of the screening process, all positive results on non-colonoscopy screening tests should be followed up with timely colonoscopy.
On reaching menopause, all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their physicians. There is no evidence, however, to support the screening of asymptomatic women and some evidence against screening. Women with or at risk for HNPCC should be offered screening annually by age 35.
The American Cancer Society recommends yearly screening for lung cancer with a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan for people aged 50 to 80 years who:
A pack-year is equal to smoking 1 pack (or about 20 cigarettes) per day for a year. For example, a person could have a 20 pack-year history by smoking 1 pack a day for 20 years, or by smoking 2 packs a day for 10 years.
Before deciding to be screened, people should have a discussion with a healthcare professional about the purpose of screening and how it is done, as well as the benefits, limits, and possible harms of screening.
People who still smoke should be counseled about quitting and offered interventions and resources to help them.
People should not be screened if they have serious health problems that will likely limit how long they will live, or if they won’t be able to or won’t want to get treatment if lung cancer is found.
The American Cancer Society recommends that asymptomatic men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy have an opportunity to make an informed decision with their health care provider about screening for prostate cancer after they receive information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits associated with prostate cancer screening. The guideline provides detailed recommendations for clinicians concerning the core factors related to prostate cancer screening and treatment that should be shared with men to enable them to make a truly informed decision regarding whether to be screened.
Since 1991, the American Cancer Society has published guidelines that focus on nutrition and physical activity, aimed at advising health care professionals, policy makers, and the general public about dietary and other lifestyle practices that reduce cancer risk. These guidelines provide a summary of the current scientific evidence about weight control, physical activity, and nutrition related to cancer prevention.
In addition to recommendations regarding individual choices, the ACS guideline underscores what communities can and should do to facilitate healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.
Most recently, the 2020 Diet and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors provide health care providers and patients with evidence-based information to help cancer survivors and their families make informed choices related to nutrition and physical activity, to improve treatment outcomes, quality of life, and overall survival.
The American Cancer Society recommends HPV vaccination for boys and girls between age 9 and 12. Children and young adults age 13 through 26 who have not been vaccinated, or who haven’t completed the vaccine series, should get the vaccine as soon as possible.