Depending on your stage of life, family history and personal experience, cancer prevention may be high on your agenda. Even if it is not, it’s good to know you can make simple changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular screenings to reduce your risk, and detect some common types of cancers early. Finding cancer early improves your chances of successful treatment and long-term survival.
There are often conflicting reports about what you can do to prevent cancer. One day it’s a new superfood preventing cancer, and another day it’s the opposite. However, it’s well-accepted that your chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices you make.(1)
Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney.
Eat a healthy diet
Making healthy selections at the supermarket and at mealtimes may reduce your risk of getting cancer. Try to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and other plant sources of food, such as wholegrains and beans and decrease your intake of foods high in sugar and high in fat from animal sources.
Drink less alcohol
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The risks of cancers such as breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver all increase with alcohol consumption and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly.
Protect yourself from the sun
Every year in Australia, skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers, with Melanoma being the third most common cancer in Australians. In 2015, 13,694 Australians were diagnosed with melanoma.2 There are different types of UV radiation. UVA rays are responsible for tanning and premature ageing, whereas UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection against both types of harmful rays.
Unfortunately, new evidence has come to light that it’s extremely difficult to get good levels of UV protection from aerosol (spray) products. The propellant in aerosol sunscreens prevents you getting enough of the product on your skin. The most popular sunscreens are SPF30 and SPF50. When applied properly, both can provide excellent protection, with SPF30 filtering out 96.7 per cent of UVB and SPF50 filtering 98 per cent. But remember to reapply every two hours, and more often if you are in the water.
Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney. Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. For substantial health benefits, strive to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.
Get regular medical care
Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.
Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about vaccination against:
• Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain adults at high risk.
• Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck.
DISCLAIMER: This wellbeing message is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health – a division of the Hospitals Contribution Fund. The health information provided here is intended to be informative only and should be carefully evaluated for its source, accuracy, completeness and relevance for your purposes. It is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Always obtain appropriate professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances.