5 Preventative Measures for Cancer

woman walking dog

Although there’s no one definitive way to prevent cancer, it’s useful to know that various lifestyle and dietary factors can contribute to the disease. Being aware of the effects of certain foods and activities can empower people of all ages into taking ownership of their health and wellbeing. Kevin O’Hagan is Cancer Prevention Manager at the Irish Cancer Society, and says that incredibly, about 40% of cancers are preventable. He explains that “about four in ten cancers are attributed to the following five lifestyle factors”… 

  1. Tobacco

We’re all aware that smoking is an unhealthy habit, but may not know that 30% of cancers (and 90% of lung cancers) are attributed to it. Kevin is optimistic about us collectively kicking the habit: “We know over half of smokers are thinking about quitting, with 40% having made a quit attempt in the last 12 months. That’s really positive. If we can crack this one, we’ll go a long way to reducing cancer.” Ready to do away with the cigarettes? This guide on how to quit will help. 

  1. Diet

People might be less aware of the risks associated with certain foods. “Diet is fundamental”, says Kevin. “Our advice is to avoid processed meats, and foods high in salt, calories and fat. Many processed foods have very high salt content and are linked to stomach cancer in particular.” Nutritionist Sarah Keogh from EatWell suggests the following; “The big foods we know play a role in cancer prevention are, without a doubt, fruit and vegetables. And wholegrains are shown time and again to help prevent (particularly) bowel and colon cancer, but also breast.” When it comes to fruit and veg – great sources of fibre – Sarah recommends mixing it up. “Make sure you have some raw, some cooked. Cooking activates all the antioxidants that we know are beneficial. Include lots of colour on your plate as well.” 

man and child in kitchen
  1. Weight

“The other big one to consider is maintaining a healthy weight”, Kevin continues. “The National Cancer Control Programme carried out a study last year and attributed around 310 preventable cancer deaths annually to excess body weight. Key cancers are bowel, kidney, oesophagus, pancreatic, breast and womb.” Remember, being underweight comes with its own issues, so speak to your doctor if you’d like further advice on how to stay within a healthy parameter for your height and age. 

  1. Low Physical Activity

Weight management is undoubtedly linked to physical exercise. According to Kevin, 6% of deaths are attributed to being inactive. “We know some people aren’t getting any exercise at all”, he says. “You need to get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day”.  This doesn’t have to involve a gym membership – why not grab a colleague and enjoy a brisk walk and catch-up during lunch hour? Taking stairs instead of the lift and using toilets on a different floor will keep you moving too. Sarah adds that if you’ve previously had cancer, “exercise can be helpful in reducing the risk of it coming back.” 

man climbing stairs in office
  1. Alcohol

Finally, another carcinogenic; alcohol. “There’s a very real link between alcohol and cancer”, says Kevin, “which unfortunately, a lot of the general public just don’t get. It’s actually been estimated that about 900 cancer cases are attributed to it every year.” While lots of us enjoy a drink, the key is moderation. “Binge-drinking and high levels of consumption are what we need to be aware of”, Sarah advises. “Make sure your body gets plenty of days every week that are alcohol-free.” 
These are just some tips to help you embrace a healthier lifestyle and feel more in control of your physical and emotional wellbeing. Chat to your doctor if you’re concerned about any aspect of your health or would like to embrace a new regime or lifestyle.