Reduce your cancer risk in 7 simple ways


More than 13,000 cancer deaths in Australia each year are linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits. The good news is you can reduce your risk of cancer. And there’s no time like the present to start making positive lifestyle changes to feel better and live longer. Why not make one or more of these your New Year’s resolution for 2014!

1. Quit smoking

Smoking is a known carcinogen that increases your risk of many cancers, including cancer of the lung, larynx, throat, mouth, tongue, nose, ovary, bowel, ureter, bladder, liver, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas, , cervix, bone marrow (myeloid leukaemia) and stomach. There are immediate health benefits as soon as you quit smoking.

Call the Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) and ask for a free Quit pack.  Quitline also offers  trained  counsellors who can also help you with practical and expert advice.

2. Get checked

Ignoring cancer won’t make it go away. It is important to be aware of any unusual changes to your body and get them checked out. Equally, screening is important because cancer can develop without symptoms.

For most cancer, finding it early means treatment has a better chance of success. Look out for:

– coughs or hoarseness that won’t go away
– unexplained weight loss
– a mole or skin spot that changes shape, size or colour
– changes in your toilet habits or blood in a bowel motion.

These signs don’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but it’s important to have them checked out.

3. Be SunSmart

The sun’s UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer as well as being the best natural source of vitamin D. It is important to get a balanced exposure to the sun to   Ensure adequate vitamin D levels whilst minimizing the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

When the UV Index for the day is three or above, sun protection is needed. The SunSmart UV Alert is reported in the weather section of daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website. You can also download the SunSmart app from the iTunes App Store or the Android Play Store.

To protect yourself:

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing.
  • Slop on SPF30 or higher broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards (more often if swimming or sweating).
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses – make sure they meet the Australian standard.

4. Be physically active

Regular physical exercise is a fantastic way to reduce your cancer risk. Did you know that up to one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily can cut your risk of cancer?

‘Moderate intensity activity’ is anything causing a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate (like brisk walking, mowing the lawn, medium-paced swimming or cycling).

‘Vigorous activity’ makes you huff and puff. It can be defined as exercise at 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate and includes activities like football, squash, netball, basketball, aerobics, circuit training, jogging, fast cycling and rowing.

If you exercise regularly you’ll feel the benefits in a variety of ways!

5. Limit alcohol

Even moderate amounts of alcohol increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, breast and bowel. To reduce your risk of cancer, limit your intake of alcohol, or better still, avoid it altogether. If you do choose to drink alcohol, Cancer Council recommends limiting consumption to no more than two standard drinks per day and having at least one or two alcohol-free days every week.

One standard drink equals:

– 285 ml of beer (one glass of beer)
– 100 ml of wine (one small glass of wine)
– 30 ml of spirits (one measure of spirits)

Check out how many standard drinks are in your beverage of choice.

6. Be a healthy weight

More than a third of Australia’s cancer deaths relate to unhealthy lifestyles including poor eating and exercise habits which contribute to overweight and obesity.

Cancer Council research shows that a waistline of over 100 cm for men and 85 cm for women significantly increases the risk of some types of cancer, including cancers of the bowel, breast and oesophagus.

Maintaining a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and how physically active you are.


  • Reduce food and drinks that are high in fats and sugars.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks as they are high in calories.
  • Choose non-fat or reduced-fat milk and dairy products.

If your weight is increasing you may need to reduce the amount of food you are putting on your plate.

7. Eat a healthy diet

Fruit and vegetables are low in fat and calories and help maintain a healthy body weight. Given that being overweight is a risk factor for cancer, they are an important part of our daily diet.

Fruit and vegetables also contain natural protective substances that may destroy cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) and may protect against cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel and lung.  Cancer Council also recommends eating wholegrain breads and cereals as part of a healthy diet and to maintain a healthy body weight.

Research suggests that eating red meat and, in particular, processed meat, may increase the risk of bowel cancer.


  • Aim to eat five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day.   One serve is ½ cup cooked vegetables, one cup of salad vegetables, 2 small pieces of fruit or 1 medium sized piece of fruit- Limit red meat intake to three to four serves a week. One serve should roughly fit into the palm of your hand
  • Limit or avoid eating processed meats like sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham.