Fact: In 2012, there were 14 million new cancer cases worldwide, and 8.2 million cancer related deaths.
Fact: About 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Fact: The number of global cancer cases is expected to rise by 70% in the coming 2 decades.
Fact: More than 30% of cancers can be prevented.
Cancer is a very scary beast. Conjuring some pretty frightening thoughts, the term comes from the Latin word for ‘crab’, in part, because of the creeping, spreading nature of the disease. Many of us think of cancers as a single ailment, but in fact they’re a very mixed bag and result from multiple cellular-level changes caused by a range of distinct factors. These vary from infections (one fifth of all cancers worldwide are caused by a chronic infection) through to radiation (for example the sun), food and even alcohol.
Based on up-to-date evidence, their advice is pretty simple.
So what is it?
Maintain a healthy weight. What this means this will vary depending on your height, race and age, but it is generally regarded as a BMI between 20 and 25.
Move more. Getting exercise is good for your heart, but also your cancer risk. It’s recommended that we are all active for at least 30 minutes each day.
Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Forget super foods, these are simple, cheap and easy to find. In fact, some of these foods, rich in fibre, are known to reduce your chances of colon cancer.
Reduce your fat and sugar intake. Less is more when it comes to this group.
Limit red meat in your diet. For many in the developing world, and some youngsters in wealthier nations, more meat is still a good thing. But for the vast majority of Europeans, Americans and Australians, follow the rules of eating less and eating better quality.
Cut down on alcohol. A risk factor for some cancers of the mouth and throat, drinking less is a smart way to reduce your risk.
Eat less salt. Be mindful of what you add yourself, but also of the salt content of staples like bread, spreads and meat products. Hidden salt is a major source in our diet.
Avoid supplements. The WCRF says it’s best to use diet alone and see a nutritionist or your local GP if you’re concerned.
Breastfeeding is best, if you can. Breastfeeding reduces your risks of some cancer types and is in line with the public health recommendations of most nations.
Cancer survivors have special recommendations and should develop and follow these in conjunction with their healthcare providers.
In addition to the ten above, most doctors would also recommend:
For those in the hotter parts of the globe - remembering to cover up in the sun, apply and reapply sunscreen and wear a hat. Protection against melanoma risk is particularly important for kids, who’s skin is especially sensitive.
Quit the habit. Tobacco use is still the most important risk factor for cancer, causing around 20% of global cancer deaths. Leaving the smokes and supporting those around you to do the same, can have lasting health benefits for your entire community.
As mentioned, a large number of global cancer cases are caused by infections - many of which are preventable through vaccination. The final piece in the cancer-prevention puzzle is to check your local or national vaccination guidelines and always be vaccinated against cancer-causing infections like HPV.
What’s the take home?
At the end of the day, there is actually a lot we can all do to reduce our cancer risk. Taking a moment to think and act on World Cancer Day might just lend a lifetime of protection to you and to those around you.
For more information, head to WCRF International.