With 1 in 2 Australian men and women diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, cancer is a disease which affects all of us.
While the focus of Daffodil Day is on life-saving cancer research, it’s important to note that at least one in three of cancer cases are preventable and the number of cancer deaths could be reduced significantly by choosing a cancer smart lifestyle and being aware of early cancer symptoms.
There are seven simple steps you can take to reduce your cancer risk. These are:
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. There are immediate health benefits as soon as you quit smoking, even if you already suffer health problems. In the long term, 10 years after you’ve quit your risk of lung cancer is halved.
Healthy eating is a first step in reducing your cancer risk. Aim for a diet that includes a variety of raw and cooked vegetables, fruit and legumes, plenty of cereals and eat red meat no more than three to four times a week. Choose foods low in salt and be aware of hidden fats in snack foods, cakes and takeaway foods.
Studies show being overweight increases your risk of developing cancer. The Cancer Council recommends you keep an eye on your Body Mass Index as well as your waist circumference. A BMI between 18 and 24 is normal and over 25 is overweight. For waist circumference, aim for a measurement below 94cm for men and below 80cm for women.
You can lower your cancer risk by being physically active. Physical activity helps you maintain a healthy body weight and can improve energy levels and feelings of wellbeing.
For good health, aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. It doesn’t have to be continuous – three x 10 minutes sessions are also good.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia but is largely preventable. You can protect yourself by slipping on sun protective clothing, slopping on SPF 30+ sunscreen, slapping on a hat, sliding on sunglasses and seeking shade.
To reduce your risk of cancer, limit your alcohol intake. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than two standard drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking, so don’t “save” your drinks using alcohol-free days, only to consume them in one session.
Being aware of cancer symptoms helps you to find cancer early and improve your chances of successful treatment and long-term survival. Make sure you take advantage of the recommended screening tests and checks for breast, cervical, prostate and bowel cancers.
• lumps, sores or ulcers that don’t heal
• coughs that don’t go away or show blood, a hoarseness that hangs around
• weight loss that can’t be explained
• moles that have changed shape, size or colour, or bleed, or an inflamed skin sore that hasn’t healed
• blood in a bowel motion
• persistent changes in toilet habits or urinary problems or changes
• Unusual changes in your testicles (men) or breasts (women), including changes in shape, consistency or lumpiness
• Persistent abdominal pain or bloating or any loss of blood, even a few spots between periods or after they stop (women)
While these symptoms can often relate to more common, less serious health problems, it’s worth getting them checked by your doctor.