Anybody can be forgiven for thinking there is nothing positive to be said about cancer, a disease that kills one in four in the UK. But research shows that over 40% of cancer cases are preventable.

Preventing Cancer

A study published by the British Journal of Cancer revealed that around 43% of cancer cases seen in the UK in 2010 were caused by lifestyle and environmental factors. Thousands of people could avoid becoming ill if they made behavioural changes such as stopping smoking, improving diet, losing weight, reducing alcohol intake and protecting their skin from sun damage. Surprisingly, just 5% of all cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene.

1. The biggest step anybody can take is to stop smoking
The earlier you quit, the greater the impact. Tobacco is estimated to cause nearly a fifth of all cancer cases in the UK, including more than eight out of ten cases of lung cancer.

2. Research suggests an unhealthy diet causes one in ten cases of cancer
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and fibre (found in wholegrain pasta, bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pulses and fruit and veg). Cut down on red meat, salt and fat (especially saturated fat).

3. Drinking sensibly will also lower your cancer risk
Alcohol causes around 12,500 cases of cancer a year in this country, affecting at least seven different parts of the body including the breast, bowel and liver. The more alcohol you consume, the higher your risk, and not just for heavy drinkers. A pint of premium lager or a large glass of wine every day can increase your chances of cancer. If you stick to the guideline amounts – one standard drink a day for women and two for men (a 175ml glass of wine or a pint of beer or cider) – your risk is smaller.

4. Try to stay a healthy weight 
Research has shown that many tumour types are more common in people who are overweight or obese, including cancer of the womb, pancreas and kidney. This is probably because fat tissues in the body produce hormones and growth factors that can interfere with the way your cells work.

5. The sun brings health benefits, but too much exposure can lead to skin cancer... 
...especially if you are fair-skinned, have lots of moles or freckles, have had skin cancer yourself or have a family history.  Cancer Research UK advises people to avoid deliberate sunbathing and to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, wear a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses and to use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.

6. Finally, take advantage of NHS screening programmes
Some can pick up changes in the body which – if left untreated – could lead to cancer. The NHS runs national screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer. Nobody can guarantee you good health, but following these tips will help you cut your chances of serious illness. 

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