Skip to Content

Cancer of Unknown Primary Prevention and Screening

Cancer of Unknown Primary Screening

Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re at risk but don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are best.

Unfortunately, no standardized screening tests have been shown to improve outcomes in cancer of unknown primary (CUP) or the types of cancer that may cause CUP.

Cancer of Unknown Primary Risk Factors

Because the primary site of many cancer of unknown primary cases is never found, it is difficult to say what causes them. In the cases in which the primary site is determined, possible risk factors are based on that type of cancer.

  • Smoking tobacco is a risk factor in cancers of the pancreas, lungs, kidney, throat, larynx and esophagus. More than half of people with CUP have used tobacco. Read more about MD Anderson’s smoking cessation clinical trials
  • Diet and being overweight are linked to cancers that begin in the stomach, colon or rectum
  • Too much sun exposure causes some melanomas

However, it has not been proven that any of these factors make a person more likely to develop cancer of unknown primary. 

If you have been diagnosed with CUP, we can help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Medical oncology and pathology experts with significant experience in evaluating cancer of unknown primary
  • Most-advanced diagnostic methods to pinpoint origin, including leading-edge CT scans and other imaging methods
  • Comprehensive range of renowned specialists to treat cancer when site of origin is found
  • Advanced CUP treatments including proton therapy, targeted therapies and surgery
  • Clinical trials (research studies) of new therapies

CUP Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Cancers of unknown primary are treated in our: 

Gastrointestinal Center by our expert team

Find Your MD Anderson Location


Cancer of Unknown Primary Prevention

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center