To mark World Cancer Day, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton looks at the things we can all do to reduce our risk of developing cancer.
The untimely deaths of David Bowie, Sir Terry Wogan and Alan Rickman mean cancer has been in the news more so than usual recently. But of course these high profile cases are merely the tip of the iceberg. Most people reading this will have been affected by cancer, losing family members, friends, colleagues or neighbours.
The heartbreaking truth is that 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years).
Now there are no proven ways to prevent cancer. There are plenty of examples of people who did all the right things and were still taken by this terrible disease. But there are things we can all do to reduce our risk of getting it.
According to Cancer Research UK, 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented, largely through lifestyle changes. It will help to lower your risk of cancer if you:
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet may lower your risk of developing cancer. Try to consume a diet containing:
- at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- plenty of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods: choose wholegrain foods where possible, as these contain more fibre
- some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- some milk and dairy foods
- just a small amount of foods and drinks high in fat or sugars, such as cakes, crisps and biscuits
Maintain a healthy weight
In England, over 60% of the population is overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of some cancers, such as:
- bowel cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- oesophageal cancer
- breast cancer if you are a woman who has been through the menopause
- cancer of the womb (uterus)
- kidney cancer
We have two FREE weight loss plans in Birmingham
Stay physically active
There’s evidence that being physically active can reduce your risk of bowel and breast cancer, and also endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus). It’s not known exactly how physical activity reduces the risk of these cancers, but research shows that regular exercise helps to keep your hormone levels healthy. Having high levels of some hormones can increase your cancer risk.
Physical activity also helps you to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces the risk of cancer.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol is known to increase your risk of some cancers, including:
- mouth cancer
- pharynx and larynx cancer
- oesophageal cancer
- colorectal cancer in men (cancer of the colon or rectum)
- breast cancer
To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:
- men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
Lung cancer is responsible for around a quarter of cancer deaths in the UK, and 90% of lung cancer cases are related to smoking.
“Stopping smoking greatly cuts the risk of developing cancer,” says Hazel Nunn, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer. “The earlier you stop, the greater the impact. But it’s never too late to quit. People who quit smoking at 30 live nearly as long as non-smokers, and those who quit at 50 can still undo half the damage.”
Protect your skin from sun damage
Taking care in the sun so that you don’t get burned is important for preventing skin cancer.
Know your body
It’s important to know your body and recognise any potential symptoms of cancer, such as lumps or unexplained bleeding, and to get advice about whether they might be serious.