We all know someone who has cancer, has had cancer or indeed tragically died as a result of cancer. It is probably the number one disease we all dread developing. It appears to strike indiscriminately, affecting all ages, ethnicities and cultures and, if not caught early, can be complicated to treat.
This all sounds pretty gloomy but there are 10 positive steps we can take to prevent cancer and to lessen the risk of ever having to receive an earth shattering cancer diagnosis.
1) Lose weight
Two out of five Irish adults are overweight and one in four is categorised as obese. This has a serious impact on our internal organs but is also thought to increase our likelihood of developing cancer. It is not the weight which poses a risk; it is the amount of abdominal fat we carry. This excess fat around the waist area, changes into a gland which produces extra hormones, like oestrogen, which may cause body tissues to become over stimulated. This process might result in cancer. It is important for our overall health that we do whatever we can to lose fat from around our waist.
2) Get moving!
Don’t worry, we don’t need expensive gym membership, lycra & top of the range trainers. It’s really easy, all we need to do is incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into our lives every day. Any brisk activity of your choice, will work. It can even be divided into two 15 minute portions so all that’s needed is to get off the train or bus a stop or two early and walk home. Not only will it assist with weight loss, it is one of our top tips for reducing our chances of developing cancer.
3) Ditch the sugar and processed foods
Steer clear of sugary beverages, and swap that bottle of cola for a glass of water. Sugar is a big cause of obesity, find out more about Free Vs Natural sugars. If your go to snack is a packet of crisps, exchange these for some healthy dips with raw vegetables. We know there are times in our increasingly hectic lives when we need to buy readily available pre-prepared processed foods. But, please consider these as a last resort, processed foods are produced with two aims in mind: to tickle the taste buds and to lengthen the product's shelf life. They are often laden with fat and sugars, which not only raises your obesity risk, but also the probability of developing cancer.
4) Start a love affair with the vegetables
Eat lots of food that is living like salad and green vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. These foods are imperative for their cancer busting potential. Why? Well firstly a diet mainly composed of plants will encourage weight loss, and secondly the vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, phytochemicals, together with unidentified healthy components sourced via the consumption of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables will guard against the risk of developing cancer. Ideally two-thirds of your plate should be vegetables/fruit/beans and whole grains. Current advice is to make sure that you consume a minimum of five portions of vegetable and fruits every day. When faced with a difficult food choice (cake or kale?) I think of my body as an engine. Live food keeps it well tuned and full of life but processed and sweet food makes it sluggish and at greater risk of breaking down.
5) Curb our love of red meat
Firstly which meat is red meat? Beef, pork and lamb are all considered red meat. Eating more than 90 grams per day increases your possibility of developing bowel cancer. If you are eating processed meats like ham, sausages, hot dogs, burgers and bacon regularly the risk of cancer is multiplied as these foods contain known carcinogens, which are major cell damage culprits. Turkey and chicken are not red meats and do not pose the same cancer risk.
Our advice is not to completely remove red meat from your diet, particularly if you enjoy it, instead ration and control the amount you eat. The Irish Cancer Society recommends reducing the overall weekly amount of red meat eaten to 500 grams. You could also opt for certain days in the week, when no meat is consumed, and consequently meat eating days could be considered a treat rather than the norm!
On the plus side all red meat has an excellent supply of both minerals and vitamins.
6) Avoid alcohol binges
We aren’t suggesting we all need to become Pioneers but we do need to think about the amount of alcohol we drink; it is known to cause seven types of cancer. These include Mouth, Pharyngeal, Oesophageal, Laryngeal, Breast, Bowel and Liver.
To help avoid developing one of these cancers, weekly guidelines on alcohol have been issued by the Department of Health and these are:-
Be mindful of drinking at home, where it is easy for drinks to become more than standard. Home pours can contain 2-3 standard drinks. A good marker is an entire bottle of wine contains about 7 standard drinks so you should get 7 standard glasses out of one bottle. If you are getting less than that you are drinking more than one measure in every glass. It’s worth noting that 500 people die from alcohol related cancer in Ireland every year.
7) Tobacco habit and smoking
In 2016 we can state categorically that there is a definite link between smoking and cancer, and that it is the most significant preventable cause of cancer in the world. In terms of lung cancer four out of five occurrences are as a direct result of smoking, and despite advanced cancer treatments this dreadful disease still has one of the poorest prognoses. However, smoking not only poses the risk of lung cancer, it also raises the possibility of developing other cancers, in particular mouth, larynx, pharynx, nose, sinuses and more.
With these alarming statistics in mind QUIT. In Ireland there are a multitude of support networks, which free of charge will provide effective techniques to wean you off this antisocial harmful habit. On a positive note, the number of smokers in Ireland is reducing from 21.5% in 20113 to 19.5% in 2014, that’s 70,000 fewer smokers. There are so many advantages to quitting; not only will you reduce your chances of getting a range of cancers, you will look and feel healthier and have much more money in your pocket! What have you got to lose? Start today!
8) Cut down on salt
By this we mean the white stuff we pour liberally onto our foods and the hidden salt in processed foods.
So, how much is too much salt? Well, in Ireland we eat twice as much salt as we should every day. There are two risks associated with this, firstly we increase our chances of having high blood pressure and secondly our risk of developing stomach cancer, which results in the tragic deaths of over 100 people in Ireland every year.
Daily recommendations for both adults and children are:-
None of us want to eat bland food, so how can we entice our taste buds if not with salt? It’s easy, we use the wonderful range of herbs and spices, such as garlic, black pepper, chilli powder, ginger that can be added to food instead.
In the supermarket it’s worth checking food labels for salt/sodium levels as these can often exceed the normal healthy limits. Opt for foods that quite clearly state no added salt. Ideally it is best to reduce and eventually remove salt during the cooking process. Although initially the food may taste bland, your taste buds will soon get used to it and your risk of developing cancer, in particular stomach cancer is markedly reduced!
9) Pale and healthy
Most white people prefer a ‘healthy’ tan, acquired from long sunbathing sessions but is that OK in terms of our health? Simple answer is no. Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in Ireland with 10,000 people diagnosed every year. This is mainly due to sun exposure, either from lengthy periods in the sun, or shorter but more concentrated sessions sunbathing, such as the annual 2 week holiday to the Costa del Sol! The sun is not the only skin cancer culprit, sunbed use also increases our risk of skin cancer.
Thankfully the majority of skin cancers are very treatable but our top tips to prevent skin cancer are:
10) Breast is best for both baby and you!
Finally we will concentrate on women and the benefits of breast feeding in preventing breast cancer (currently a 1 in 12 chance of developing the disease). Breastfeeding has a dual benefit, it prevents breast cancer but also helps the long term health of the baby, as breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity later in life!
Taking HRT also slightly enhances the risk of developing breast cancer. However, on a positive note it appears that all cancer risk factors return to normal within a time frame of 5 years after finishing HRT.
It is worth remembering that although an unhealthy diet or lifestyle may play a role in the development of cancer, what actually causes a tumour to develop is not known.
With this in mind and out of concern for the tremendous financial burden that a cancer diagnosis can inflict on previously healthy people who may not be able to work whilst undergoing treatments, AIG Direct has created a Cancer Cover policy. Cancer Cover will grant give you financial peace of mind with a cash benefit of €32,000 with Standard cover or up to €64,000 with Platinum Plus cover.
The article was written by the MedOnline Medical Team. MedOnline is an interactive web/mobile clinic. The views expressed in this article are those of MedOnline and do not necessarily reflect the views of AIG Europe Limited