Precautionary Principle: Cancer Prevention Efforts During Critical Periods of Growth and Development

Aurelie C. Cormier

precautionary principle, prevention, epigenetics, genes, environment, carcinogens
CJON 2019, 23(6), 659-663. DOI: 10.1188/19.CJON.659-663

Although the mechanisms of action for all cancer types are not fully known, best practice recommends promoting a healthy lifestyle while avoiding certain substances. Based on environmental science, the precautionary principle is a guideline that suggests that preventive action should be taken when the effects of a substance are unknown or disputed. Oncology nurses and maternal child healthcare professionals can improve cancer prevention through efforts during pregnancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. This article reviews the application of the precautionary principle during critical periods of growth and development and provides recommendations that may prevent epigenetic changes and reduce the risk for cancer.


  • The precautionary principle can be applied in practice to reduce individuals’ risk for developing cancer throughout their lifetime.
  • Continuing education on epigenetics, as well as providing recommendations for health and lifestyle changes during growth and development, can help to prevent cancer.
  • Education on assessments for genetic, nutritional, and environmental risk factors can improve oncology nurses’ ability to advocate for patients.
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