Most people are interested in improving their health and wellbeing and reducing their risk of premature death and chronic disease. What can be overwhelming however, is the evidence as to what does, and does not cause cancer…
Did you know that 1 in 3 cancers can actually be prevented?
In Australia, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.
One in three cancer cases can be prevented by making healthier choices. That’s approximately 37,000 Australian cancer cases that could be prevented every year through positive lifestyle changes.
So what can you do?
We can all take steps to reduce our risk by making some positive lifestyle changes. This includes:
1. Quitting smoking
Cigarette smoke contains 7000 chemicals, 70 of them which are known to cause cancer.
Approximately 1 in 8 cancer deaths in Australia are due to smoking, with more than 18,500 Australians diagnosed with a smoking-related cancer each year.
Quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke will reduce your risk.
2. Reducing exposure to the sun’s UV rays
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two out of three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.
Skin cancer kills nearly 2,200 Australians each year.
Cancer Council Victoria recommends using a combination of the five SunSmart steps (Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide) from September to April (in Victoria) when UV reaches damaging levels of 3 and above.
3. Eating a nutritious diet
Good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight play a key role in our health and wellbeing and can protect us against developing certain cancers.
A balanced diet includes eating 2 serves of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables every day, as well as consuming foods that contain dietary fibre (such as legumes and grains).
Limiting the intake of red meat, processed meat and salt can also help reduce your risk.
4. Being within a healthy weight range
In Australia, one of the leading health concerns are individuals who are overweight and obese. Australia is in fact, one of the most overweight developed nations in the world.
People who are overweight or obese can increase their risk of cancers. The best way to achieve a healthy body weight is to eat a balanced nutritious diet and to exercise regularly.
5. Exercising regularly
Exercising regularly improves our health and wellbeing in many ways. Not only does physical activity encourage weight loss and helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain, it can also help build strong muscles and bones.
When you exercise regularly you have better mental health, feel less stressed and can get a good night’s sleep.
Most importantly, physical activity reduces the risk of developing cancer and chronic disease.
Australia’s physical activity guidelines recommend that adults should aim every week to:
- accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity OR
- up to 2.5hrs of vigorous intensity OR
- an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities
There is also growing evidence that prolonged sitting leads to poorer health outcomes, including poor muscle tone and weight gain, as well as the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The guidelines furthermore encourage Australians to take regular breaks when sitting for long periods of time and to be active on most, preferably all days every week.
Muscle strengthening activities are encouraged on at least 2 days each week. Resistance training is important for maintaining strength, for the prevention of falls, as well as to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
6. Reducing alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of certain cancers. Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your cancer risk. The more you drink, the greater the risk.
If you also smoke, you further increase your risk. Up to 75% of cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract can be related to smoking and drinking alcohol.
If you do drink, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than two standard drinks per day.
Are you at risk?
You can check by filling out the Cancer Australia’s ‘Check your cancer risk‘ quiz. It’s a short questionnaire where you can assess whether your everyday lifestyle choices can affect your risk of developing cancer.
Fill out the quiz and you will also be provided with a cancer risk summary and recommendations. In addition, you also can compare your results to other Australians…
So what healthy choices will you make today to improve your overall health and wellbeing and reduce your cancer risk?
We hope this information helps and until next time, wish you all great health and wellbeing!
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Australian Government (2013). Department of Health. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.
Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (2017). Cancer in Australia.
Cancer Australia (2018). Check your cancer risk.
Cancer Council Victoria (2018). Prevention.
National Health and Medical Research Council (2009). Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol.
National Health and Medical Research Council (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia.
Winstanley, MH & Greenhalgh, EM (2017). Total burden of death and disease attributable to tobacco by disease category. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2017.