1. Quit Smoking

Smoking and using smokeless tobacco are directly linked to many kinds of cancer. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, including over 60 carcinogens or chemicals known to cause cancer. When you inhale cigarette smoke these chemicals enter your lungs and spread through your body.

If you don’t smoke, never start. If you do smoke, quit. (The chances of getting lung cancer gradually decrease once you stop smoking. Avoid breathing second-hand smoke, which increases your risk for heart and lung diseases, including cancer.

There are immediate health benefits as soon as you put out your last cigarette, even if you already suffer health problems.

Reasons to quit

  • Twelve hours after stopping, almost all nicotine is out of your system with most by-products gone within five days.
  • After 24 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped dramatically, meaning your body can take and use oxygen more efficiently.
  • After two days, your taste and smell start to return.
  • After two months, blood flow to your hands and feet improves.
  • After one year, there is a rapid decline in your risk of heart disease.
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is reduced by half.

2. Eat Healthy

By enjoying a healthy diet, being physically active every day and maintaining a healthy body weight, you can lower your risk of developing cancer. Healthy eating habits are a first step in reducing your cancer risk. Poor eating habits increase your risk of cancer at many sites in the body. Poor eating habits can also contribute to weight gain and being overweight or obese increases your risk of cancer. The good news is that a healthy diet, combined with regular physical activity and a healthy body weight can reduce cancer risk.

While there is no one food that can protect against cancer, there are steps you can take to lower your overall risk. A healthy diet may protect against cancers including cancer of the bowel, liver, oesophagus (food pipe), lung and stomach.

  • Eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day.
  • Double your serving of vegetables
  • Try a new fruit each week
  • Include vegetables with your lunch
  • Add extra vegetables to all your recipes
  • Have fruit instead of sweets.

Eat for Health

  • Eat a variety of raw and cooked vegetables,fruit and legumes (eg. dried beans, lentils).
  • Don’t eat too much fat, especially saturated fat. Look for hidden fats (eg. snack foods, cakes and take-away foods).
  • Choose low fat yoghurts, cheeses and milks.

What about taking vitamin and mineral supplements?

If you enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods you will get the nutrients you need, reduce your cancer risk and are less likely to be overweight or obese. For most healthy people, vitamin and mineral supplements are not necessary when they eat well.

3. Be Sun Smart

Avoid harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays: UV radiation from the sun the main cause of skin cancer.

Avoid being in the sun when ultraviolet rays are strongest. During the summer, that is from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A general rule is to avoid the sun when your shadow is shorter than you are.

Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Use one that blocks UVA and UVB rays. Wear protective clothing to help block the sun’s rays.

4. Avoid alcohol

There is convincing evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the bowel, breast, mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus (food pipe) and liver. Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your cancer risk. The more you drink, the greater the risk. If you choose to drink, limit your intake. The type of alcohol you drink doesn’t make any difference. Beer, wine and spirits all increase your risk of cancer.

Smoking and alcohol

It has been known for a long time that smoking is harmful to health. The combined effects of smoking and alcohol greatly increase the risk of cancer (more so than from either of these factors alone). Up to 75 per cent of cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract can be related to alcohol plus smoking.

5. Remain Active

Being more active is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Physical inactivity is an important risk factor for bowel cancer and breast cancer, and possibly prostate, uterine and lung cancer. Being inactive also contributes to weight gain. Overweight and obesity also increase cancer risk. The good news is you can lower your cancer risk by being physically active. Physical activity regulates hormones such as insulin-like growth factor and oestrogen and affects the speed that food passes through the bowel, reducing contact with any potential carcinogens.

Physical activity assists in maintaining a healthy body weight and can improve energy levels and feelings of well being. For good health, put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity preferably on all days of the week. It doesn’t have to be continuous, 3 x 10 minutes sessions are also good. Each activity session should last at least 10 minutes.

To reduce your cancer risk, the more physically active you are the better. As fitness improves aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity every day.

Moderate physical activity includes any activity in which you can still hold a conversation, such as brisk walking. Vigorous physical activity includes any activity that makes you ‘huff and puff’, such as fast swimming, cycling, jogging etc.