“At least one third of all cancers are preventable”
(World Health Organisation)
More than one in three people in Wales will develop cancer during their lifetime. Most cases are in people over 60, but the habits we adopt earlier in life can greatly alter our risk.
There is good evidence that at least one third of all cancers could be prevented by changes to our lifestyle and environment. Some of the more common cancers such as lung, bowel and mouth cancers, and malignant melanoma are preventable.
There is a wealth of information about factors that may influence the risk of developing particular types of cancer, some of which can be conflicting and difficult to interpret. If you are looking for more detailed information you may like to check out the following websites:
Here we focus on a few simple ‘top tips’, as recommended by Health Challenge Wales in partnership with Cancer Research UK. Please follow the links for more information:
Help me Quit
Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world. If you smoke, giving up is the most important thing you can do for your health. Smoking causes nearly all cases of lung cancer. It also causes cancer of the mouth, nose, voice box, food pipe, stomach, kidney, bladder, pancreas, liver and cervix. The earlier you stop smoking the better, but it is never too late to quit. The longer you stay off tobacco, the more you lower your risk of lung cancer and other diseases.
Help Me Quit is the single point of contact for smokers who want to stop smoking in Wales.
All Help Me Quit services in Wales will provide you with structured support on preparing to quit, quitting, staying stopped and your smoke-free future. Sessions are always delivered by trained stop smoking experts. There are a number of services in Wales. All services are free and will give you the best chance of quitting smoking for good. When you choose a Help Me Quit service, your stop smoking expert will discuss the different types of stop smoking medications which are available to help you quit.
0800 085 2219
Text: HMQ to 80818
Help Me Quit Wales
Stay In Shape
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing cancer of the bowel, kidney, food pipe, gallbladder, pancreas and womb. It also increases the risk of breast cancer in women who have been through the menopause.
You can try to maintain a healthy body weight by balancing the energy you take in from food and the energy you burn through physical activity. The links below provide some useful guidelines that may help you improve your health and wellbeing:
Take Some Regular Exercise
Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and breast cancer. It is recommended that everyone should try to take at least half an hour of moderate activity on five or more days each week.
Moderate activity should make you slightly out of breath. This could be brisk walking, gardening, swimming, cycling, dancing or jogging.
If you can’t manage 30 minutes in one go, you can break it down into 10 or 15 minute sessions. Whatever your age the links below will take you to a range of ideas and suggestions for getting moving and keeping active:
Eat and Drink Healthily
Diet affects our risk of developing certain cancers, including cancer of the bowel, stomach, mouth, and food pipe.
Cancer Research UK and Weight Concern have joined forces to develop Ten Top Tips for a healthy weight:
- Keep to your meal routine. Try to eat at roughly the same times each day, whether this is two or five times a day. This will help you to avoid unplanned meals and snacks which are often high in calories.
- Go reduced fat. Choose reduced fat versions of foods such as dairy products, spreads and salad dressings where you can. Use them sparingly as some can still be high in fat.
- Walk off the weight. Walk 10,000 steps (about 60-90 minutes of moderate activity) each day. You can use a pedometer to help count the steps. You can break up your walking over the day.
- Pack a healthy snack. If you snack, choose a healthy option such as fresh fruit or low calorie yogurts instead of chocolate or crisps.
- Look at the labels. Be careful about food claims. Check the fat and sugar content on food labels when shopping and preparing food.
- Caution with your portions. Don’t heap food on your plate (except vegetables). Think twice before having second helpings.
- Up on your feet. Break up your sitting time. Stand up for ten minutes out of every hour.
- Think about your drinks. Choose water or sugar-free squashes. Unsweetened fruit juice is high in natural sugar so limit it to 1 glass per day (200ml / 1/3 pint). Alcohol is high in calories so try to limit the amount you drink.
- Focus on your food. Slow down. Don’t eat on the go or while watching TV. Eat at a table if possible.
- Don’t forget your 5 a day. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, whether fresh, frozen or tinned (400g in total).
The following links will take you to other reliable sources of information and simple guidelines for eating well and improving your general health and wellbeing:
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, upper throat, voice box, food pipe, liver, bowel and breast.
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk. For anyone who drinks regularly, the more you cut down on alcohol the more you reduce your risk.
There is limited risk if you only drink a little, such as one small drink a day for women and two small drinks a day for men.
‘Drink Wise Wales’ has some useful tips for enjoying a drink and staying healthy:
Too much sun ages your skin and can cause skin cancer. People with fair skin, lots of moles, or a family history of skin cancer are at greatest risk.
It’s important to take extra care with children’s skin which is more easily damaged.
Being ‘Sun Smart’ and taking care not to burn could prevent most cases of skin cancer. It is recommended that factor 15+ sunscreen is used on exposed skin and that you find shade or cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sun glasses at times when the sun is particularly hot.
The SunSmart website has advice about sun protection and information about spotting the signs of skin cancer early.
Go for Cancer Screening
Tests called ‘screening’ can pick up unusual changes early. In some circumstances steps can be taken to prevent abnormal cells developing into cancer. Even if cells have already become cancerous, early detection and treatment will ensure much better outcomes.
Please see our section on Screening for more information about cancer screening programmes in Wales.
Practise Safer Sex
Some sexually transmitted infections can cause cancer.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections are one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. More than half of sexually active people are infected with one or more HPV types at some point in their lives, but infection will generally go away without causing any symptoms.
However, there are a group of ‘high risk’ HPVs that currently account for approximately 5% of all cancers worldwide. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by Human Papilloma Virus. HPV may also increase the risk of cancers affecting other parts of the body, including the vulva, vagina, anus, mouth and penis.
The hepatitis B virus can also be spread through unprotected sex and is linked to primary liver cancer.
The link below will take you to information about how you can practise safer sex and reduce your risk of developing cancer: