How to cancer-proof your body
We look at the tried and tested ways of giving your body the best chance of avoiding cancer.
More bad news on the statistics front, I’m afraid. A recent study by Cancer Research UK says that a man’s risk of developing cancer will reach one in two by 2027, up from 44% in 2010.
Unhealthy habits, peer pressure (which apparently doesn’t go away post-high school) and poor diet choices all combine to raise our chances of developing some form of the disease. The good news is that survival rates have doubled in the past 40 years as treatments improve. So while diagnoses are on the increase as our life expectancy gets higher, so is your ability to beat cancer.
The other piece of good news is that, by making necessary changes to your lifestyle, you can cut drastically your likelihood of getting cancer.
Dr Helga Groll, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, says: “We can’t do anything about our age, or the genes that we’re born with, but there’s lots we can do to help reduce the risk of cancer.
“Research by Cancer Research UK found that more than four in 10 cancers could be prevented through changes to our lifestyle. There is good evidence that not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, enjoying the sun safely and eating a diet that’s low in red and processed meat and salt and high in fruit and vegetables and fibre reduces the risk of cancer. Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee a person won’t develop cancer, but it helps stack the odds in their favour.”
Nearly 164,000 of British men were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, with prostate cancer – the most common form in men - making up over 40,000 of them. MSN Him takes a look at some of the most common forms of cancer in men, what you can do to lower your risk of getting it and boost your chances for a speedy recovery.
Though age and genetics play a role, experts aren’t certain about the causes of prostate cancer, which kills approximately 40,000 British men every year. Some studies have linked what we eat, drink and inhale to our chances of developing this killer disease, though Dr Groll does say: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK but research has so far not found any strong links with lifestyle.”
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims that men who drink one can of fizzy pop a day may boost their risk of aggressive prostate cancer by a whopping 40%, so changes to your diet may well limit your risk.
Lung cancer is the second most common, with over 23,000 diagnoses in 2010 – a shocking number of men, many of whom have one thing in common. Dr Groll says: “More than eight out of 10 cases are caused by smoking, but it’s never too late to quit. Quitting will reduce the risk of developing lung cancer and other diseases even for people who have been smoking for many years.”
Giving up smoking to avoid cancer is a pretty much a no-brainer these days anyway, right? Oesophageal cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer… the list goes on, and they’ve all been linked at some point to smoking. There’s also strong evidence that not smoking reduces your risk of leukaemia, specifically myeloid leukaemia, which should also make you think twice about even social cigs.
Run for your life
The causes of bowel cancer are not as opaque as those attached to the prostate. Scientists have established a clear link between our lifestyle and the development of the disease.
Dr Groll says: “There are lots of things we can do to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Having a diet low in red and processed meat and high in fibre, keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking all help reduce the risk of the disease.”
All those late nights at the pub may be taking their toll on our health. Booze causes around 4% of cancers in the UK, with bowel being the most common. Oesophageal and liver cancer have also been linked to drinking alcohol.
Watching what we eat isn’t always about keeping our waistline in check. Dr Groll says: “There are almost twice as many cases of stomach cancer diagnosed in men as in women. Risk of stomach cancer can be reduced by not smoking, and having a diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt.”
It’s essential that you stay active. The Department of Health recommends that adults do around 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, but try to do longer, more rigorous sessions if you can manage it.
It’s a sign of the times, perhaps, that skin cancer is on the rise, though men are more likely to get it later in life than women. According to Cancer Research UK, incidences for European men were around seven times higher in 2008-2012 than in the mid-1970s.
Malignant melanoma (the most serious form) is on the rise because we are taking more holidays abroad, but it’s entirely preventable. Dr Groll says: “Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. Risk can be reduced by enjoying the sun safely and taking care not to burn, and avoiding sunbeds.” Slap on the sunscreen, or stay out of the sun, basically.
No one can confidently predict what will happen to their health in the years to come, but, if you follow this lifestyle advice while you’re still young, then you are far less likely to become one of those negative numbers by the time 2027 comes around. It’s not as far away as you think…
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