12 ways to reduce your cancer risk
The European Code Against Cancer, developed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the European Commission 2014, aims to inform people about actions they can take for themselves or their families to reduce their risk of cancer.
Cancer specialists and scientists from across Europe compiled the code based on the latest scientific evidence on cancer prevention. It consists of twelve recommendations that most people can follow without any special skills or advice. The more recommendations people follow, the lower their risk of cancer will be.
1. Avoid smoking or using tobacco products
Cigarette smoking kills up to half of long-term users. Not only is it the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer but tobacco use is also linked to various other cancers and threats to our health. If you smoke, deciding to quit could save your life.
Find out more about giving up smoking.
2. Avoid second-hand smoke
When non-smokers share a space with someone who is smoking they are being exposed to second-hand smoke. This is associated with avoidable illness, including cancer.
Keeping your home and workplace smoke free are important steps in reducing the risk of second-hand smoke.
Find out more tips on creating a smoke-free environment.
3. Be a healthy weight
After choosing not to smoke, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important way to reduce your risk of cancer. Find out more about the link between body weight and risk of cancer.
People who follow a healthy lifestyle that adheres to the recommendations for cancer prevention have an estimated 18% lower risk of cancer compared with people whose lifestyle and body weight do not meet the recommendations.
Find out more about healthy body weight and how to take action to reduce your risk of cancer.
4. Be physically active
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Being physically active contributes to a healthy lifestyle which can reduce your risk of cancer. Read more about how being physically active can reduce your risk of cancer.
Find out how active you need to be and get tips how you can get your 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
5. Have a healthy diet
Your diet has a powerful effect on your health, including your chance of getting cancer. Limiting your intake of foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat while increasing your consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses can help to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce your risk of cancer.
Find out more about the five fundamentals of a healthy diet.
6. Avoid alcohol
Drinking alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer: those of the mouth, gullet (oesophagus), throat (pharynx and larynx), liver, large bowel (colon and rectum), and breast.
Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention. If you do drink alcohol, limit your intake of alcohol. There is no ‘safe’ level of drinking, but the risk of cancer is lower the less alcohol you drink.
Read the latest information on alcohol, cancer and your health.
7. Avoid too much sun
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland but it is also one of the most preventable cancers. Avoid too much sun and make sure you are SunSmart by:
- Seeking shade between 11 am and 3 pm.
- Covering up by wearing a T-Shirt with a collar and sleeves and a sun hat with that gives shade to the face, neck, head and ears.
- Wearing wraparound sunglasses with UV protection.
- Wearing sunscreen with SPF 15+ (SPF 30+ for children)
Find out more about how to follow the SunSmart code.
8. Avoid pollutants
Reduce your risk of cancer risk by protecting yourself in workplace against cancer-causing substances by following health and safety instructions.
Find out more about pollutants and cancer risk.
9. Avoid Radon
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that occurs in the Earth’s crust. Exposure to radon increases our risk of lung cancer, the more exposure the greater the risk.
Take action to ensure that you are not exposed to radiation in your home through naturally occurring radon .
Visit www.epa.ie/radiation/radon to find out more about radon and how to reduce your risk of overexposure to radon.
10. Advice for women
Women who breastfeed their babies for prolonged periods have a lower risk of developing breast cancer in later life than comparable women who do not breastfeed. If you can, breastfeed your baby.
Use of hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of cancers of the breast, endometrium and ovary, as well as several non-cancer adverse health outcomes. If possible you should avoid or limit the use of hormone replacement therapy.
11. Get vaccinations
Few people associate infection with cancer, but nearly one-fifth of all cancers in the world are caused by infectious agents, including viruses and bacteria. Reduce the risk of cancer by ensuring your children take part in vaccination programmes for Hepatitis B (for newborns) and Human Papillomavirus (targeted for girls in first year of secondary school and upwards). Find out more about the HPV vaccine in Ireland.
Read more information on cancer vaccines.
12. Get screened for cancer
Some types of cancer can be found and treated before they cause symptoms. The main aim of cancer screening is to prevent death from cancer. Screening can also make it possible to use less severe treatment methods if the cancer is detected early enough. For some cancers, such as cervical cancer and bowel cancer, screening can actually prevent the cancer from developing.
Take part in organised screening programmes for bowel cancer (men and women), breast cancer (women) and cervical cancer (women).
Find out more about screening programmes in Ireland from www.cancerscreening.ie.
Download our infographic on 12 ways to reduce your cancer risk.
Take a moment to watch our short film on the steps you can take to reduce your cancer risk: