World Cancer Day 2022: Strategies for cancer prevention

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.

Exercise regularly

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.

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DISCLAIMER: Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of these blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations such as social distancing and frequent hand washing. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with current social distancing recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website

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