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Prevention of disease can be primary (preventing disease before it happens as well as identifying and modifying risk factors), secondary (identifying early disease), or tertiary (treating complications of the disease or limiting the impact of established disease). Important areas for primary prevention include encouraging women to exercise regularly to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and breast cancer as well as counseling women to discontinue cigarette smoking to reduce the risk of cardiac and lung diseases. Cancer screening in women is an example of secondary prevention, in that disease is detected early enough that prompt treatment improves outcome (even in its precursor stage, eg, colonic adenomatous polypectomy preventing colon cancer). Loop electrocervical excision procedures for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia I–III is an example of tertiary prevention (removal of early-stage cancer to prevent death from metastatic disease).

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