Cancer prevention means taking action to reduce the risk of getting cancer.
Scientists and medical researchers are continually trying to discover the key factors that increase and decrease the risk of cancer so that people can adapt their lifestyle and be proactive in their approach to their healthcare.
This should ensure less people develop cancer and die from cancer.
Cancer risk factor – anything that increases your chance of developing cancer
Cancer protective factor – anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer
Some risk factors can be modified such as smoking, a poor diet and inadequate exercise – all of which help to maintain a healthy weight and body. Other risk factors cannot be avoided such as your genetic background.
An awareness of genetics and family history can help to monitor your healthcare and take precautionary measures to prevent the development of cancer.
Whilst it is not possible to entirely prevent cancer, it is possible to reduce the risk factors for gastrointestinal cancers by changing lifestyle factors:
- Changing lifestyle factors such as environment
- Reducing alcohol consumption. A high intake of alcohol is associated with the following GI cancers:
- Oesophagus – alcohol can affect on the oesophagus, particularly squamous cancer.
- Pancreas – alcohol can lead to chronic inflammation of the pancreas, known as pancreatitis, which can increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Liver – alcohol can lead to chronic inflammation of the liver, known as liver cirrhosis, which can increase the risk of liver cancer.
- Bowel – alcohol affects digestion and is associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer.
- Avoid smoking
- Smoking is associated with many cancers including oesophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- Changing eating habits and diet
- Eating a diet high in green vegetables is thought to reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
- A diet high in vitamin C is thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
- Avoid preserved meats as these are thought to increase the risk of stomach cancer
- Burnt and processed meat, as well as a high intake of red meat, is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Obesity increases the risk of many health conditions, including diabetes, which may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Obesity is associated with bowel cancer, specifically for men.
- Regular exercise is believed to reduce the risk of bowel cancer
- Avoiding cancer risk factors
- Taking medications to treat pre-cancerous conditions
- Ensure you attend regular screening tests for cancers such as bowel cancer
- Early diagnosis that can help treat the cancer at an early stage of development
Despite of efforts to reduce individual risk factors, cancer can still occur. Cancer-screening tests are an effective way of detecting early signs of cancer so treatment can start as early as possible, and help to increase the chance of a successful outcomes.
For example, early bowel cancer detection, diagnosed in Stage 1, will result in an almost 100% success rate for treatment, whereas late stage detection (Stage 4) leads to a decline in chance of successful outcomes to under 40%.