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Cancer: Two crucial changes you can make to reduce chance of getting disease

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One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, according to data from Cancer Research UK. Research has allowed the UK’s cancer survival rates to double in the last 40 years, with more than half of patients now surviving the disease for more than a decade. However, as people continue to benefit from improved healthcare facilities and a longer life expectancy, the number of cases is expected to rise. Professor Peter Sasieni, lead author of the Cancer Research UK study, said: “Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 percent of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65.

“If people live long enough then most will get cancer at some point.”

But there is a lot we can do to reduce our chances of developing it.

Dr Jodie Moffat is Head of Strategic Evidence and Early Diagnosis Programme Lead at Cancer Research UK.

She explained that as many as 40 percent of cancers are preventable and laid bare the two main ways in which people can reduce their risk.

She told “We know that about 40 percent of cancers are linked to preventable lifestyle causes.

“Smoking is the obvious one, and it’s really important that people are supported to stop smoking.

“That’s another area where Government investment has perhaps wavered over the years.

“But it can make such a difference, and of course because smoking is such a big driver of inequality.

“If we can equip and support all people to stop smoking then that’s got so much benefit.”

The next biggest thing, Dr Moffat said, is weight. She addressed the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight.

She said: “Keeping to a healthy body weight is really important for cancer, and I know Covid has had huge challenges with that.

“Some of us, it varies, but some of us might spend more time at home, less time out and about.

“And there’s a concern that perhaps, you know, our health has been suffering as a result, and it’s really important that we do these.”

It is important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, eating lighter and leaner while choosing fewer high-calorie foods.

A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, concluded that eating large amounts of processed meat can slightly increase the risk of certain cancers.

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Red and processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Those who eat more than 90g of red and processed meat each day are advised by the NHS to reduce this number to 70g or less.

Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb, while processed meat includes sausages, bacon and sliced luncheon meats — including those made from chicken and turkey.

The health benefits of exercise cannot be underestimated too. Maintaining physical activity on its own can reduce the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.

Adults are recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.

It is generally advised to try to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine.

Dr Moffat said: “Do these things, keep a healthy weight and stop smoking, or never start.

“They can make really big differences to our cancer risk.”

She added: “If you are found to have cancer, the healthier you are, then generally the more open the treatment options are to you.

“Because sometimes if you’re not as fit as you have been or could be, then maybe you won’t be able to actually have the surgery or the invasiveness of surgery that actually would stand you in best stead.”

Other prevention actions include being safe in the sun and cutting alcohol intake.

The NHS notes the importance of protecting your skin when the sun is strong by spending time in the shade, covering up with clothing and using sunscreen.

Likewise, it says all alcohol can increase your risk of cancer.

The risk of various cancers — including breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver cancer — increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, as well as the length of time you have been drinking regularly.

If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to contact your GP.

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