The easiest ways to cut your cancer risk

Taryn Davies
Published: February 4, 2016

It's World Cancer Day and in the hope of bringing to light how everyone – as a collective or as individuals – can do their part to reduce the global burden of cancer, we thought we'd share some advice on how to cut your cancer risk?

Cancer Research UK reveals that 1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime but, with the life-changing advances in research over the last 40 years, survival has doubled.

According to the NHS, more than one in three people will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetime and research over the last 40 years has indicated how your lifestyle can affect your chances of being diagnosed with it.

These aren’t difficult changes to make either, just adopting some of these changes will make a difference, and once you’ve conquered one, you can move onto the next, and so forth.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the most single best things you can do for your health, yes it’s hard work, but it’s not impossible and your overall wellbeing will greatly improve if you rid yourself of the habit.

Aside from lung cancer, smoking can raise your risk of oral cancers, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and more.

It often takes six or seven times to quit for good, so if you’ve tried before don’t be disheartened, and check out local support groups or speak to your doctor there’s a lot more help out there than you may think.

quitting smoking

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health

Protect your skin from the sun

Ok, we may need vitamin D for a healthy body, but experts say that we only need 15 minutes of sun for that, the rest of the time you need to ensure your body is protected from damaging sun rays.

Even on those cloudy, overcast days, UV rays can still be damaging your skin, so ensure your regular moisturiser has SPF protection included.

It’s advisable to stay out of direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm, as that’s when the sun is at its hottest and of course, don’t use sunbeds – they’re incredibly damaging to the skin.

Maintain a healthy weight

A report from the World Cancer Research Fund indicated that weight too much can cause a number of different cancers, these include breast, kidney and colon cancer.

If you need to lose weight it’s highly advisable that you learn about your diet and healthy eating as a whole and don’t rush into something faddy that will help you lose a stone in a week and then put it all back on when you return to ‘normal’ food.

Healthy eating and more physical activity are the best way to lose weight sustainably and diets like Weight Watchers and Slimming World will help you do that – they teach you how to eat healthily and enjoy food without guilt, plus they’re sustainable. What’s more, you can still enjoy pasta, bread and potatoes and lose weight – I did and lost 40lb.


Make sustainable changes to get yourself to a healthy weight

Move more

Exercise isn’t just a powerful tool in weight-management; it can also help reduce your risk of cancer. There’s even some evidence to suggest it may offer some extra protection for heavy smokers.

It’s advised we take part in 30 minutes of activity five times a week, and the best thing to do is take up activity you enjoy, that way you’re more likely to stick to it.

Regular exercise can lower blood-oestrogen levels in women which can help protect against breast cancer.

Check yourself and get screened

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be checking your body regularly for lumps and bumps that have just appeared and it’s important you get screened too. Cervical Cancer Prevention Week has just been, so there’s never been a better time to book your next Smear test with your doctor, it may help prevent something that could have a detrimental effect on your life.

Eat a balanced, healthy diet

This falls in line with maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring you get all of the right nutrients your body needs will positively affect your cancer risk.

In a study of more than 500,000 people, reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, those who ate the most fat (about 40% of their daily calories) were 23% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who at the least (about 20% of their daily calories). It’s advisable that you limit fat to 20-35% of your calories, which works out at about 40-70grams in total of a 1,800 calorie diet.

The basic principles of a healthy diet include eating everything in a balanced, moderated way. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and keep red meat to a minimum. Cut back on bad fats (saturated and trans-fats) and choose healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats).

As much as we may be told to avoid carbs like bread and pasta, it’s important to include these in your diet, just choose whole grain options. In fact, if you eat whole grains regularly you can cut your risk of pancreatic cancer, and for pre-menopausal women, it also cuts the risk of breast cancer.

It’s advisable that when you’re eating fruits and vegetables to eat a wide variety of colours because different foods can offer different protective benefits when it comes to your health. Try and eat the rainbow every day.

healthy eating

A diet with plenty of colour is best for your health