Cancer is an illness which has affected every one of us in some way. Studies show that 1 in 3 people in Ireland are affected by cancer and around 30,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.
Many of us are inclined to believe that cancer is down to bad luck or poor genetics, but this is simply not the case. Research shows that 4 in 10 cases of cancer are preventable. 
The Marie Keating Foundation have launched a new campaign entitled ‘Your Health, Your Choice’, to advise us on the changes we can make to help reduce our likelihood of developing cancer.
 
Don’t smoke
Next time you’re in a smoking area, consider the fact that half of all people who smoke will die of a tobacco related illness. While asking for a lighter may seem like a great way to initiate a conversation with someone, it’s really not worth it in the long run. 
 
The benefits of quitting smoking start almost immediately. Within 20 minutes your circulation will improve and your heart rate and blood pressure will get lower. After 72 hours your breathing will improve and your energy levels will increase. Your sense of taste and smell will also improve. 
 
Within 2 or 3 months your lung capacity can increase by up to 30%.  Within 1 year your chance of heart attack drops by half. Within 5 years the risk of smoking related cancers will be greatly reduced. As you can see, the benefits are vast.
 
If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and if you do smoke, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about how to quit. Alternatively you can call the National Smoker’s Quitline for free on 1800 201 203, free text QUIT to 50100 or visit www.quit.ie.
 
Eat right
Being overweight can seriously increase your risk of developing cancer. Two of the most common cancers in Ireland are breast and bowel cancer. Both of these are linked with obesity. 
When someone is overweight or obese, the extra fat in the body can have harmful effects, like producing hormones and growth factors that affect the way their cells work.
 
These hormones and proteins are then circulated around the body through the bloodstream which is why obesity is linked to so many types of cancer, including three which are extremely hard to treat- pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder cancers.
 
Enjoying a wide range of healthy food including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and lean meat as well as limiting sweet treats and processed meat, like ham, sausages and bacon, can make the world of difference. 
 
Exercise
Exercise reduces the risk of breast, bowel, womb, kidney, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer. It is important to realise that something as simple as jogging for 30 minutes a day will help prevent cancer, even if you’re not losing weight! You don’t have to join a gym. Anything that makes you warm and slightly out of breath counts, like dancing around your kitchen or helping a friend to move into a new place. Try walking instead of driving or getting a lift if it’s a short journey. 
 
Protect yourself against the sun
It may be surprising to hear that skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Over 10,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year and that number continues to rise. 
Overexposure to UV light from sunrays is the main cause of skin cancer. This means that skin cancer is preventable by simply taking protection from the sun and never using sun beds. A tan may look good, but it is really worth the risk? 
 
Take the following precautions in the sun to stay safe:
 
Get some shade, especially between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Cover up wear long sleeved tops, trousers and wide brimmed hats.
Wear wraparound sunglasses with 100% UVA protection or a UV 400.
Wear sun screen everyday with an SPF 15 or higher and five star UVA and UVB protection. Even if you are in Ireland and the sun is hidden behind clouds, it is still important to protect your skin with sun screen if you are outside. 
 
Reduce your alcohol intake
Every year in Ireland, 900 people are diagnosed with alcohol related illnesses. The more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk of bowel cancer, breast cancer and at least 5 other types of cancer. The type of alcohol makes no difference as it is the substance itself that does the damage. 
 
Alcohol consumption is one of the most well established causes of cancer. Start to limit your alcohol intake and do not drink to excess.
 
For more information about the ‘Your Health, Your Choice’ campaign and the simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of cancer, just click here