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This is a repost of an article from last year. A few stats have been updated, but the messages are the same. Despite a huge amount of coverage in the press, the standard tenets of healthy living still remain the best way of reducing the risk of cancer.

And what better time to start that in the New Year?

A diet high in fruit and veg can help reduce the risk of some cancers

Christmas means different things to different people. But it’s probably fair to say that to most, it can be summed up very eloquently in one phrase – ‘my eyes were bigger than my belly’.

It’s traditionally a time when we eat more than we would ever usually eat, drink more than we would ever usually drink, and, perhaps no wonder, collapse on the sofa more than we would ever usually collapse.

Thank goodness, then, that Christmas is followed by New Year and the chance to start afresh.

Resolutions are a big part of any New Year and when we make them, we often have our health in mind. But how many of us realise just how much good we’re doing? In this post, we’ll find out how familiar resolutions can help to dramatically reduce our risk of cancer.

Quitting is hard but worth it

Quitting smoking is the best present you can give yourself

Smoking – so last year

Here’s one we’ve all heard – “In the New Year I’m going to quit smoking”. How many of us would have been thinking about cancer when we made it? Probably not that many. Maybe, we were thinking about trying to get rid of a cough instead or being able to get to the top of the stairs without being out of breath.

Stopping smoking can certainly help with these problems, but on top of that, it also means reducing the risk of 15 different types of cancer – huge added value by anyone’s standards!

Post-Christmas waistline

Keeping active can help prevent cancer

Keeping active can help prevent cancer

If carving the turkey was the most activity you got all Christmas, you might resolve to do more exercise now the New Year’s here, maybe to look a bit more toned or build those muscles. But keeping active, not just at the gym but at the ice rink, around the house or at work, can also help to reduce the risk of two of the most common cancers, breast and bowel. And it doesn’t even have to cost any money – gardening, brisk walking and other small bits of activity could be enough.

Not only that, being active helps in maintaining a healthy bodyweight – great news since current  levels of overweight and obesity in the UK could lead to 19,000 cases of cancer in the future. Keeping to a healthy weight isn’t easy, but we can help you to do it.

Too much pudding?

A picture of a bottle of wine

Alcohol increases cancer risk

Eating and drinking healthily is another big post-Christmas concern. It’s perhaps little wonder that, after the excess of Christmas pudding and mulled wine, cutting down on alcohol and eating more fruit, vegetables and fibre is really appealing. But resolving to eat more healthily can also help to reduce the risk of a range of different cancers.

It’s your year

Who would’ve thought that the resolutions we hear so often around this time of year have the potential to do us so much good? Of course, turning the resolutions into reality is no easy task.

But if it doesn’t happen on the 1st of January, don’t give up. Keep working at it. Any day can be the day to start afresh. Make 2010 your year.

Ed

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Comments

george woolley January 12, 2010

The site is good realy good I walk about two miles a day and eat well but I do like a drink or two .
I have always been fit so when cancer stuck it hurt me like hell .
That was three years ago I have a fantastic team looking after me at withington hospital Manchester .They are the best .
My Mrs as been very good with it all .She is great we have been together 55 years .regards to all urostomates .

Ed Yong January 8, 2010

Kismet, a couple of points in relation to your comment:

It’s difficult to make a specific point about wine because there’s still a lot of disagreement as to whether its effects on health are substantially different to other types of alcohol. Certainly, when it comes to cancer, all types of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer because the biological mechanisms behind this increased risk are common to all alcoholic drinks. It’s the ethanol itself that is the problem

We’re aware of the meta-analysis you linked to, which suggested that drinking 6g/day leads to a lower risk of dying of any cause at a given age. This corresponds to less than a unit a day, which is less than a half-pint or a half a small glass of wine. However, we also know that some studies suffer from the “sick quitter” effect, where people are classified as “never-drinkers” because they have become so ill from heavy drinking that they no longer touch alcohol. This classification problem means that the “never-drinker” group includes people with worse health than those who actually avoid alcohol and makes it more likely that the “light-drinkers” will look better by comparison. The meta-analysis by di Castelnuovo adjusted for this effect by excluding former drinkers from the “never-drinker” group and found that the benefits of very light-drinking were lower, but not completely gone.

It’s also important to realise that the beneficial effect of light-drinking on overall mortality only applies to older age groups, say, for people over the age of 65. The evidence shows that for people under the age of 35, the safest level of drinking (taking all possible causes of death into account) is nothing. This is the same picture for cancer specifically – even low levels of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer and so far, studies have failed to find a “safe” threshold.

However, we do recognise that small amounts of alcohol could reduce the risk of heart disease, in some age groups – this is why our advice is to cut back on the drinking. I’d also disagree that mortality trumps all other endpoints – some chronic diseases are inherently treatable but trying to prevent them is still a worthwhile goal. It’s about quality of life as well as its quantity.

Kat Arney January 4, 2010

Hi Lynne,

There’s more information about passive smoking on our News & Resources website:
http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/howdoweknow/tobacco-smoking-and-cancer-the-evidence#Passive

However, there’s no scientific evidence that eating watercress can significantly counteract the effects of tobacco smoke. There is some research to show that eating a lot of fruit can help to reduce the risk of lung cancer, but the protective effect is very small compared to the damaging effects of tobacco smoke. There’s more information here: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/commonquestions/index.htm#Is9

Best wishes,
Kat

WAYNE January 2, 2010

I can read about this stuff all day long, thanks for the write up my friend! Happy New Years!

lynne jenkinson December 27, 2009

As a mental health workert I am constantly exposed to the cigarette smoke of my service users as huge proportion ofthem smoke. This concerns me a great deal What are the effects of passive smoking. I think that I heard sosmewhere that eating watercress can mittgate the effects for people who smoke is this true

what causes cancer December 25, 2009

Alcohol and smoking is injurious to health. Smoking has many bad effects on health. Cancer is a very common disease now-a-days. Men and women both are affected. People need to be made aware about the consequences and to take care ahead to reduce the risk of cancer. Eating nutritious food will help combating cancer

Kismet December 25, 2009

It’s cancer blog so I understand your focus, but I am not sure you’re really doing people a favour when recommending lowering alcohol intake w/o mentioning all-cause mortality or wine.

The effects of very moderate alcohol consumption in the range of 5-10g/d (and perhaps wine in particular, just to name one ref [2]) are overwhelmingly positive on a population level. (2006) [1]

Dead is dead so I think that all-cause mortality trumps all other endpoints; assuming the data is generalisable, causality, etc.

Or am I missing something?

[1]Arch Intern Med. 2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2437-45.
Alcohol dosing and total mortality in men and women: an updated meta-analysis of 34 prospective studies. Di Castelnuovo et al.
[2] Pathophysiol Haemost Thromb. 2002 Sep-Dec;32(5-6):353-5.
A meta-analysis of studies on wine and beer and cardiovascular disease.
de Gaetano G, Di Castelnuovo A, Rotondo S, Iacoviello L, Donati MB.