Top 10 tips for reducing your cancer risk

Australians have a 1 in 2 risk of being diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85. Changing some lifestyle factors, detecting cancer early can help improve your chances of prevention, successful treatment and/or long term survival.

Here are our top ten tips to keep cancer aware:

Know your family history

Sometimes cancers can appear to 'run in families', however only about 5% of cancers are due to an inherited faulty gene that is passed on from a mother or gather.

Certain patterns, such as the number of blood relatives developing cancer, similar ages at which the cancer develops and similar types of cancers may indicate that you have inherited a faulty gene within your family.

Quit smoking

Smoking tobacco is the greatest preventable cause of cancer. Smoking increases your risk of developing cancers of the head and neck, lungs, throat, bowel, stomach, pancreas, liver and kidney.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese

Carrying too much body weight can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer including cancers of the bowel, oesophagus, endometrium, pancreas, kidney and breast.

Watch your alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing cancer in the head and neck, throat, liver, bowel and breast. Australian guidelines recommend no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day.

Exercise regularly

Being physically active can reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancers including colon cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer and endometrial cancers. Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend adults achieve a weekly total of 2.5 - 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, along with strength-training (resistance) activities twice a week.

Enjoy a healthy, varied diet

A poor diet increase your cancer risk, particularly in cancers associated with your digestive tract. Evidence shows that diets high in red meet and processed meats such as ham, salami and other deli meat can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer as well as some other cancers.

Enjoy a healthy diet and aim to consume two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day.

Be sun safe

Melanoma (the most dangerous form is skin cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in Australians. Avoid excessive sun exposure and solaria and wear sunscreen and protective clothing to lower the risk of skin cancer.

Get a cancer screening

There are regular screening services available in Australia to detect the early stages of certain cancers, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer. Regular self-checks are also recommended for the skin, breasts and testicles.

Know the signs and symptoms

Keeping an eye out for changes in the body can help with early detection (and treatment) of cancers. Some to be aware of include:

Changes in skin

  • lumps, sores or ulcers that do not heal
  • a new mole or a change in an existing mole, including changes in shape, size, colour or bleeding occurence

Changes in eating and/or digestion

  • Problems with eating including a change in appetite, discomfort in swallowing or after eating
  • Persistent abdominal pain or bloating
  • Changes in bowel habits including blood in a bowel motion

Other changes

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Hoarseness or a cough that does not go away or shows blood
  • Unexplained night sweats
  • Blood in urine
  • Feeling weak or tired

Specifically for men

  • Changes in your testicles such as change in shape, lumpiness or consistency
  • Problems or pain going to the toilet or urinating or changes that persist.

Specifically for women

  • Change in your breast such as changes in size, shape, colour, lumpiness, texture; having unusual pain or discharge; or nipples that suddenly turn inwards
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods

Seek medical opinion

In most cases, these symptoms will not be cancer and may be related to something else. If you have a family history of cancer or are experiencing any symptoms, please visit your doctor to discuss further.

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