World Cancer Day, 4th February 2020
World cancer day provides the opportunity to raise awareness and encourage the prevention of cancer. The theme this year will once again be ‘I Am and I Will’, reinforcing the idea that through our actions and our commitment to make a positive change, together we can reach the target of reducing the number of premature deaths from cancer (and Non-Communicable Diseases) by one third by 2030.
What do we mean by cancer?
Cancer is the term given when a group of normal cells within the body undergo uncontrolled/ abnormal growth forming lumps called tumours (this is true for all cancers except leukaemia which occurs in the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread to surrounding tissues or other parts of the body. Read more about types of cancer here.
Can cancer be prevented?
At least a third of cancers are considered preventable, which means your risk can be reduced if you make certain lifestyle changes.
- Quit Smoking
Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of cancer and quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health and for those around you. Smoking is linked to several types of cancer including lung, oral, stomach and bowel cancer. Quitting at any time and age will have a huge impact on your health.
- Reduce Alcohol
By drinking in moderation you can reduce the risk of several cancers including mouth, bowel and breast cancer. Having no more than 14 units per week spread over several days, and not “binged” in one session, is recommended [note units of drink vary according to the strength of the alcohol].
- Keep Physically Active
Maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring physical activity forms part of your everyday life will help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including pancreatic, kidney, ovarian and prostate cancer. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (which leaves you slightly tired/ increases your respiratory rate) is required by the average adult per week.
- Avoid UV Radiation
Sun damage and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, no matter your skin tone, will increase your risk of skin cancer. Using sun cream factor 30 or above, loose fitting clothes that cover the skin, and taking advantage of shaded areas (particularly when the sun is at its hottest between 12-4pm) will help provide protection.
- Be Mindful at Work
Depending on the work you do, you may be at a greater risk of some cancers. Asbestos for example is a well-known workplace cause of cancer. If your work involves exposure to cancer-causing harms, ensure you follow all health and safety advice and policies put in place by your employer.
- Vaccinate yourself
Chronic infections (commonly caused by viruses) are estimated to cause around 16% of all cancers worldwide. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are linked with liver and cervical cancer, respectively. There are safe and effective vaccines against HBV and HPV, which will greatly reduce your risk of contracting the associated cancers.