Many things affect our risk of getting cancer – our genes, lifestyle and the environment. It is usually difficult to pin-point a reason why one person developed cancer while another did not.
Research has shown that certain risk factors increase a person’s likelihood of developing cancer. Therefore, reducing your risk factors for cancer is an important cancer prevention measure.
In Malaysia, approximately 1 in 4 new cancers can be prevented through adjusting avoidable or modifiable risk factors.
There are 4 general approaches to cancer prevention – maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, avoiding cancer-causing substances, taking medication or vaccines that can prevent cancer, and screening.
The 4th edition of the European Code against Cancer recommends the following actions to help prevent cancer:
- Do not smoke. Do not use any form of tobacco.
Cigarette smoking is a known cause of several cancers and it is the largest preventable cause of cancer.
- Make your home smoke-free. Support smoke-free policies in your workplace.
Second-hand smoke is a known cause of lung cancer.
- Take action to be a healthy body weight.
Excess body fat increases the risk of many cancers.
- Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting.
Physical activity reduces the risk of several types of cancer, while sedentary behaviour has been associated with an increased risk.
- Have a healthy diet:
- Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables, and fruits
- Limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat) and avoid sugary drinks
- Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt
- If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.
Alcohol intake, even at low or moderate amounts is a cause of cancers.
- Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.
The main cause of skin cancer in ultraviolet radiation.
- In the workplace, protect yourself against cancer-causing substances by following health and safety instructions.
Some chemicals, metals, dusts, fibres, and occupations have been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.
- Find out if you are exposed to radiation from naturally high radon levels in your home; take action to reduce high radon levels.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs at high levels in certain locations and is a cause of lung cancer.
- For women:
- Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk. If you can, breastfeed your baby
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of certain cancers. Limit use of HRT
- Ensure your children take part in vaccination programmes for:
- Hepatitis B (for newborns): Hepatitis B is a cause of liver cancer
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) (for girls): HPV is a cause of cancer of the cervix and several other cancers
- Attend cancer screening programmes for:
- Colorectal (colon) cancer (men and women)
- Breast cancer (women)
- Cervical cancer (women)
Take our Cancer Risk Quiz and find out what you can do to reduce your risk.
Gleneagles Hospital works with oncologists to assist patients through cancer treatment. The caring and multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals are available for consultation and to provide the best care.