Tomorrow, February 4, 2022, is World Cancer Day, a day to inspire change and mobilize people to take action to reduce the global cancer burden. In Canada, cancer is the leading cause of death, but the good news is that up to 50% of all cancer cases are preventable. You can reduce your risk by improving key lifestyle factors, including your diet, the amount of activity you do, and by eliminating harmful substances.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
We all know we should eat our veggies, but did you know that doing so could cut your risk of developing cancer? Along with promoting health and well-being, and helping to control body weight, eating a healthy diet can lower your chances of developing cancer as you age. Are you already eating balanced, nutritious meals and snacks, or is your diet in need of a makeover? It isn’t too late to make a change. By incorporating more vegetables, fruits, and fibre into your diet, while reducing red meats and processed foods, you can reduce your risk of cancer.
Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of regular physical activity for older adults. For instance, having an active lifestyle can help improve balance and decrease your risk of chronic conditions, such as cancer. While the pandemic has made it challenging to stay active as gyms and other exercise facilities have had to close at times, there are still ways to get moving. Whether it be engaging in a virtually led fitness class like Yoga or Pilates from home or walking outdoors (remembering to maintain a safe distance of at least 2 metres from people outside of your immediate household), regular physical activity has numerous health benefits for both your body and your mind. Try incorporating at least 30 minutes of activity into your day and reap the benefits, while helping to reduce your cancer risk.
Limit alcohol consumption
For many people, alcohol is considered one of life’s pleasures – enjoying a cold beer on a hot day, or a glass of wine with dinner. But too much of a good thing can have bad consequences. There is a link between alcohol and serious diseases, including cancer, especially head and neck cancers (particularly involving the oral cavity), liver cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. Avoiding alcohol altogether is your safest option, but if you choose to drink, follow the recommended guidelines: no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men.
Screening to help detect cancer early
The purpose of screening is to detect abnormalities that point to the potential presence of cancer or pre-cancer prior to the individual starting to experience symptoms. Decisions around whether to screen, which screening option is best for you, and how to go about it should be made in consultation with your health care team. Together you can assess your level of risk, weigh the benefits and harms for you as an individual, and incorporate your preferences.
To read more about these evidence-based strategies for reducing your risk of developing cancer, see our featured resources below.