World Cancer Day, 4th February 2022
Cancer has remained one of the consistent top three causes of death in Gibraltar. Lung, breast and bowel cancer the most common forms detected. It is important to emphasize that not all cancers are inevitable, many cases may be prevented entirely.
Factors that increase our chances of developing cancer include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Environmental pollution
- Exposure to UV radiation
- Physical inactivity
- Poor nutrition
- Cancer causing infections (such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus).
30-50% of all cancers are considered preventable. By making modifications to our lifestyles, we can help reduce our risk.
Healthy living sound easy? It may not be… There are a number of reasons for the decisions we take (or decisions made for us) on a daily basis. In order to make a change it is best to think practically and start small.
Pick a risk factor you think is relevant to you, make a change…
Studies show that over one billion people smoke worldwide. Tobacco use is linked to many types of cancers including those affecting the lungs, larynx, mouth, oesophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum, cervical and blood. This risk also extends to those around the individual smoking; up to 30% of non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer. The GHA offers an effective and free stop smoking service – Phone: 200 52441. You could also try the NHS SmokeFree App for support.
Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of developing up to 13 types of cancer. Improving our diets and increasing physical activity levels can help improve general wellbeing, as well as reduce our potential cancer risk.
In Gibraltar, 47.1% of adults currently do little or no regular physical activity [Healthy Survey, 2021]. With many of us spending the bulk of the day at a desk or affected by pandemic-driven lockdown measures, it can be difficult to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. Recommendations are for healthy adults to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week (or 10,000 steps per day). Opting to take the stairs instead of the lift, or walking or cycling instead of using a car, can help you on your way. Step tracker Apps and online challenges are a great way to stay motivated. You could also check out the NHS “Couch to 5K” programme.
Regular consumption of processed meats is linked to an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. Red meat is also associated with an increased risk in certain cancers; however, as the evidence is less clear-cut cancer researchers’ advise we cut back where possible. Fibre plays an important role in reducing the risk of bowel cancer. Many of us do not hit our recommended daily fibre intake. Some simple ways we can reach the recommended 30mg target:
- Choose wholegrain food options e.g. brown bread, rice and pasta.
- Swap out some meals for plant-based alternatives – e.g. lentils or beans.
- Incorporate fruit and vegetables into every meal. Fresh, frozen, dried or tinned – they all count.
A great resource for plant-based eating is our local Facebook Page Cut Meat, Not Trees.
Make sure you take part in screening:
Screening is a vital and often under-utilised service in the prevention and early detection of cancer. Screening can detect disease in people who show no signs or symptoms; and it is often in these cases that best health outcomes are achieved.
Read more HERE.