Every third cancer case is related to choice of lifestyle

There is no guarantee to prevent cancer. However, lifestyle choices can minimize the risk of cancer as research reveals that almost every third cancer case is related to such choices. These choices also apply to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

1. Avoid tobacco use

Stopping smoking or not starting smoking is the most important factor to reduce the risk of cancer. It is never too late to stop. A five-year period after stopping significantly reduces the risk of developing several cancers. After a ten-year period, the risk of lung cancer is halved. All tobacco is harmful to health, including smokeless tobacco.

If you are unable to stop smoking, try not to expose others to secondary or passive smoking. 

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2. Avoid obesity

Cancer risk is reduced by maintaining a healthy body weight and preventing weight gain. A lifestyle with a healthy diet and regular exercise helps to prevent obesity.

3. Be physically active

Increased physical exercise reduces the risk of cancer – for example regular physical activity, preferably 30 minutes daily, with a higher pulse rate. Daily physical activities are important, such as climbing stairs and walking instead of using a car whenever possible. Even a little exercise is better than no exercise at all, and it is never too late to start.

4. Eat a healthy and balanced diet

A healthy and balanced diet can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. It is important to eat whole-grain products, with at least five servings of vegetables, fruits and berries daily. Choose low-fat dairy products and food products marked with the “keyhole” symbol. Increase your intake of fish, and restrict your intake of processed and red meats. Sugary beverages should be limited, as should foods with a high salt, sugar or fat content. Remember that healthy food can also be tasty food.

5. Restrict alcohol consumption

Restricting your alcohol consumption reduces the risk of cancer. The total amount of alcohol intake is significant for the risk of cancer, regardless of whether we drink small quantities often or large quantities occasionally. A low consumption is recommended to prevent the risk of cancer.

6. Enjoy being in the sun without getting sunburnt

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by sunburn and excessive sunbathing over a period of time. The sun's rays are most intense in the middle of the day between 1200 and 1500. Do not rely entirely on sunscreen. Protect yourself by alternating between being in the shade or covering your skin with clothing. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, and we get our daily requirement of this vitamin after a few minutes of exposure to the sun in summertime. In wintertime we require more vitamin D, and our requirement can be covered through diet by increasing our intake of oily fish, cod liver oil or vitamin D supplements. Solariums or tanning beds raise the risk of skin cancer.

7. Ensure that all body changes are checked by a doctor

Early diagnosis increases the chance of recovery. Observe any changes in your body. If you discover a lump, or experience abnormal bleeding, or have a mole that changes its features or begins to itch or a sore that does not heal, you should have this examined by a doctor.

8. Participate in cancer screening programmes

Mass screening can detect cancer cases before the disease has spread. Women aged 50-69 should participate in mammography screening programmes every alternate year to detect breast cancer. Women between the ages of 25 and 69 should have a Pap smear test undertaken by a GP or gynaecologist every three years to detect cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine for cervical cancer is part of the national immunization programme, and is offered free to all girls in the seventh year of schooling.

9. Follow recommendations for protection against exposure to carcinogenic substances 

Professions where you are likely to inhale particles/dust from chromium, nickel compounds and asbestos pose a greater risk of developing cancer. Check warning labels and follow the recommendations for protection. Radon increases the risk of lung cancer, especially if you are a smoker. Home-owners are advised to conduct radon measurements and to take action if the values are above the recommended limit.