The aetiology of cancer is multifactorial, with environmental, lifestyle factors and genetic predisposition playing a role in the pathogenesis of this disease. Cancer can impact one’s quality of life, psychological state in various ways and lead to death.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report that in the UK in 2013, 351,578 cases of cancer were diagnosed. Of these cancer cases, 179, 093 were in men and 172, 485 were in women. Further to this, statistics has also shown that within the same year there were 161, 272 cancer deaths.
Unlike genetic influences, which we cannot control, we have some control of our lifestyle and can make changes to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Scientists estimate that 1/3 of the 13 most common cancers in the UK could be prevented through good diet, regular physical actively and having a healthy body weight.
Below are some tips and advice on how we can reduce the risk of cancer:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Strong evidence have shown the association between being overweight and obese and the risk of developing cancer. Thus, being a healthy weight has beneficial effects in cancer prevention.
Cancer Research UK has produced a great infographic (shown below) illustrating ways individuals can maintain a healthy weight and further elaborate on their website how things like being mindful of portion sizes and sticking to eating at the same time each day can help to achieve a healthy body size.
- Partake in regular physical activity
Existing research has demonstrated that individuals who participate in higher levels of physical activity are less likely to develop cancer in comparison to those who partake in lower levels of physical activity. It is recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking every week and do strength exercises at least twice weekly.
Having said this, being physically active also helps us to achieve a healthy body weight and stay in shape, which in turn, helps lower risks of cancer. You can read a previous post published here on ways you can get active and include some of these tips to your everyday life.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Like physical activity, eating a healthy balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Diet has been widely known to directly influence cancer risks. For instance, regular consumption of processed and red meat has been implicated in increasing the risk of developing certain cancers like colorectal , pancreas and prostate cancer. Whereas, a diet high in fibre, fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cancer.
Current healthy eating advice include the recommendation for individuals to consume adequate amounts of fruit and vegetable a day, at least 5 portions. Having said this, the EatWell Guide perfectly shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. The NHS website, explains in depth each section and provide tips on how you can incoperate this guide to improve your diet.
- Watch your units
Regular alcohol consumption has been linked with increased risk of head and neck cancer and other cancers like breast and bowel cancer. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for men and women in regards to alcohol consumption is that they should not drink no more than 14 units a week. Further, it is recommended not to save up their units and it is best to spread evenly across the week.
- Do not smoke
According to Cancer Research UK, smoking accounts for more than 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths, and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases. It is by far the biggest preventable causes of cancer. Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke like arsenic, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cynaide enter our blood stream and can negatively affect the entire body. This is why smoking causes so many diseases, including at least 14 types of cancer, heart disease and various lung diseases.
If you smoke, there are local services available to help you quit. Smoking services are free and provide you with advice, tools and resources to support you to quit smoking, which can help improve your overall health.