Adopt positive lifestyle choices to ward off cancer

An organisation which operates a mobile cancer information unit regularly in Galway, is urging people to adopt positive lifestyle choices to help prevent the condition.

The Marie Keating Foundation is also calling on the public to avail of free national screening programmes, such as BreastCheck, CervicalCheck and BowelScreen.

The cancer charity - set up in memory of the mother of singer Ronan Keating who died from breast cancer - aims to empower people to be proactive about their health. It is appealing to the public to make looking after their health a priority this New Year.

It offers the following top 10 tips to help people reduce their risk of cancer in 2015.

1. Scale down. A landmark study by the World Cancer Research Fund uncovered “convincing evidence” that being overweight is a contributing factor in six different types of cancer, including colon and breast cancer. The review found that gaining weight can also increase your risk, even if you are within a healthy weight range (BMI 20-25 ).

2. Get moving. Exercise is not just about managing your weight. It can also help reduce your risk of cancer. Also, fitter people are better placed to fight the disease.

3. Butt out. Smoking is the single biggest cause of ill-health and death in Ireland, according to the Marie Keating Foundation. Aside from lung cancer, smoking can raise your risk of oral cancers as well as cancer of the kidneys and pancreas. If you smoke, stop now. Help is available from the HSE QUIT service - freephone 1800 201 203.

4. Do not go against the grain. Two or more servings of wholegrain, which you can get from breads, cereals and pastas, could cut your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 40 per cent. “In pre-menopausal women, fibre in wholegrain cereals could reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by half.”

5. Trim the fat. The more fat you eat, the greater your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Limit fat to 20 to 35 per cent of your calorie intake

6. Don't scrimp on sunscreen. Most people know that sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer but do not know how much sunscreen to put on. When in the sun, you should use the equivalent of two tablespoons to cover your body and a teaspoonful for your face. Always reapply after swimming and do not go out in the midday sun. Never use sun beds.

7. Arm yourself with nature's anti-cancer arsenal. Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals and antioxidants which research suggests help to protect people from cancer. Different foods offer different protective benefits, so be sure to eat a variety of different colours.

“Broccoli and kale may reduce the risk of colon cancer, while tomatoes can help to protect you against cancers of the stomach and pancreas.”

8. Be the designated driver. Besides the fact that being the designated driver will help you save money, evidence suggests drinking increases your risk of cancers of the bowel, esophagus and liver. Alcohol is also linked with an increased breast cancer risk for women taking hormone replacement therapy or with a family history of the disease.

9. Be on the lookout. Breast, testicular and skin cancer sometimes have symptoms that you can see and feel. Get to know your body so that you know what is normal for you. If something changes, go to your GP to get it checked out. It may be nothing, but your GP can tell you for sure.

10. Say “yes” to screening tests. If you are invited to participate in screening programmes such as BreastCheck, CervicalCheck or BowelScreen, say “yes.” These are government-funded programmes designed to keep you healthy. They usually involve quick, often painless, health checks that will detect if you have abnormal cell growth. These tests will enable doctors to detect health problems at any early stage when they are easy to treat.

Helen Forristal, a nurse manager with the Marie Keating Foundation, says the New Year is a time when many people decide to change their lives, focusing especially on their health and waistlines.

“The Marie Keating Foundation wants to help Galway people make small, simple changes to their lifestyle that will help them live happier, healthier, longer lives that are hopefully free from cancer. It is never too late to make changes, no matter what age or weight you are or no matter how long you have been smoking.”

She added that the “Your Health, Your Choice” cancer prevention tips for 2015 are available on the foundation’s website together with its free “Ask the Nurse” service. This allows people to ask questions about cancer prevention, symptoms and treatment. We are here to help.”

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