Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years). Yet many of the risk factors for cancer are modifiable - which means you can do something about them.
10 ways to reduce risk
The World Cancer Research Fund, recommends focusing on these 10 lifestyle factors to reduce your risk:
1. Stay a healthy weight - there’s strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing cancer of the bowel, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney, liver, breast (in post-menopausal women), womb, ovaries, prostate and gallbladder cancers.
2. Move more - be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day and sit less. Being active can help to protect against bowel, breast (in post- menopausal women) and womb cancer.
3. Avoid high calorie foods and sugary drinks - eating these food and drinks increases risk of being overweight or obese which in turn increase risk of many cancers. Enjoy these foods occasionally as a treat.
4. Include more grains, veg, fruit and beans in your diet. The World Cancer Research Fund’s advice is to make 2/3s of your plate 2/3 or more vegetables, wholegrains and pulses and 1/3 (or less) meat, fish and other protein foods.
5. Limit red meat and avoid processed meat. Regularly eating more than 500g red meat each week increases risk of bowel cancer - and new research has shown that processed meats like sausages, ham, cured meats, reformed meat found in pies, sausage rolls etc have a strong link to increased risk of bowel cancer.
6. Don’t drink alcohol - while previous recommendations have suggested that it’s ok to drink alcohol in small quantities, the advice from the World Cancer Research Fund is to avoid it completely to reduce risk of cancer.
7. Eat less salt - the current recommendations are to eat less than 6g of salt a day and the majority of the salt we get in our diet is found in processed foods including bread, cheese, cured meats, breakfast cereals, tinned foods and ready meals, sauces, pizzas and sandwiches. Prepare as many of your meals as possible from scratch and get used to checking food labels to pick the lower salt options.
8. Don’t rely on supplements. It’s interesting that the WCRF have included this one as a separate recommendation but it shows that many of us still believe that popping a pill is just as good as getting the nutrients from your food - and it’s not! Some high dose supplements may even increase risk of cancer and ill health.
9. For those looking to have a family, the next recommendation is to choose breast feeding if possible - this can lower the levels of some cancer-related hormones in your body.
10. Do not smoke or chew tobacco - tobacco can cause cancer however it enters the body – and it’s particularly harmful when combined with alcohol. Tobacco causes 90 per cent of lung cancers and is also linked to cancers of the mouth and throat, oesophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney and bladder, stomach, bowel and liver.
So have a think - how many of these risk factors are you paying attention to? And are you putting yourself at unnecessary increased risk of a deadly disease? Take steps to reduce this risk today.
Written by Ruth Tongue