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How a few simple lifestyle changes can cut your risk of cancer

Thursday 8 October, 2015 by Liv

What do plastic water bottles, artificial sweeteners and mobile phones all have in common?

They have all been blamed – wrongly – for  causing cancer. (See iheard.com.au to debunk stories, rumours and fanciful claims about cancer).

For the truth about cancer prevention, a major Australian study has revealed that up to 37,000 Australians can avoid a cancer diagnosis, mostly through lifestyle change.1

But what does that mean exactly?

Eat more fruit, veg, and wholegrains

The study shows that 7000 new cancer cases a year are directly related to low fruit and vegetable intake, low fibre intake and excess red meat.

So try adding some more fruit and vegies into your diet at every meal – put some apple in your porridge, add some salad to your sandwich and snack on some fruit or vegie sticks.

Quit smoking

Many people know about the link with smoking and lung cancer, but what they might not know is that smoking causes 16 different types of cancer. The good news is, as soon as you quit your body starts repairing – despite your age or how long you have been smoking.

Give the Quitline (13 7848) a call, no matter what stage of quitting you are at for some personalised support.

Slip, slop, slap, seek, slide

Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world. In fact UV radiation is strong enough to cause sunburn in just 11 minutes on a clear day in January.

One of the best barriers between your skin and the sun is clothing, so try to cover up as much skin as possible. And while you are at it slop on some sunscreen (make it SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum and water resistant), slap on a broad brimmed hat, seek shade; and slide on some sunglasses!

Extra points if you download the SunSmart app which lets you know when you do and don’t need sun protection.

Ease up on alcohol

It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink, your cancer risk is the same for all types of booze – whether it’s beer, wine or spirits. Luckily, you can reduce your cancer risk by cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink or choosing not to drink alcohol at all.

Watch your waistline

Cancer Council research shows that a waistline of more than 94 cm for men and 80 cm for women increases the risk of some types of cancer.  A waistline of more than 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women greatly increases your risk.

Stay on the safe end of the measuring tape by reducing your intake of high fat foods and drinks, choosing no-fat or reduced-fat milk and dairy products and opting for white meat or vegetarian options over red meat.

Start moving

Just one hour of moderate activity, or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily can cut your risk of cancer.

There’s no need to run a marathon every day, or pump iron; just try getting more activity into your daily routine. Try getting off the bus a few stops early or parking further away at the shops so you can get some more steps in. Make it more of a social occasion by going for a walk with a friend instead of getting a coffee.

So there you have it – a few simple steps toward a healthier lifestyle! And there is no need to go Paleo, vegan or quit sugar.


  1. Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors was commissioned by Cancer Council Australia and conducted by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. It has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

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