In part one of our interview we discussed the links to being overweight and cancer. In part 2 we look more at the issues involved with what you can do to cut your risk levels.

What Types Of Food, Additives Etc Have Been Shown To Have Links To Cancer?

Eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel and stomach cancer. Red and processed meats contain a red pigment called haem, which is thought to encourage the production of chemicals called N-nitroso compounds, or NOCs. Many of these are known to cause cancer. Processed meat (E.g. sausages, hams, salami, hot dogs and rashers) increases bowel cancer risk more than red meat. Eating foods high in fibre can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. People who eat the most fibre have a 25-40% lower risk of bowel cancer compared to people who eat the least. Fibre protects against bowel cancer by encouraging the production of helpful chemicals and increasing the frequency of bowel movements. Eating lots of fish can decrease your risk of bowel cancer. Eating lots of saturated fat may increase the risk of breast cancer. Fat in our diets probably affects the risk of breast cancer by increasing the levels of oestrogen and other hormones in our blood. This potentially leads to more rapid growth of breast cancers that are encouraged to grow by the hormone oestrogen. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of stomach, oesophageal and mouth cancer. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and have wide health benefits. There is some evidence that eating too much salty food, or food that has been preserved with salt, could increase the risk of stomach cancer. For example, stomach cancer is more common in countries like Japan where people tend to eat lots of salty and salt-preserved foods. It is thought that salt may affect the risk of stomach cancer by damaging the lining of the stomach and causing inflammation.

What Affect Do Fatty Foods, Sweets And Alcohol Have On Developing Certain Types Of Cancer?

All types of fats and oils are very high in calories. While fats are a necessary part of our diet, a high-fat diet can increase your risk of cancer, heart disease and other conditions. And there is evidence that eating too much saturated fat may increase your risk of breast cancer. Alcohol Most people know that heavy alcohol use can cause health problems. But 1 in 5 are unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer and that alcohol is a known cause of seven types of cancer. 1 in 10 cancers in men and 1 in 33 cancers in women have been linked to alcohol. The more you drink, the higher your risk. Even a small amount of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer. It’s not just people who have a ‘drinking problem’ who are affected. Drinking alcohol increases your risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx (voicebox), throat, oesophagus (foodpipe), breast, liver and bowel. Alcohol may also increase your risk of pancreatic cancer. The projected number of new alcohol related cancers is estimated to more than double for females (from 2,953 to 6,445 new cases) and increase by 81% for males (from 1,445 to 2,613 cases) up to 2020.

What Are Your Thoughts On Supplements?

The best source of nourishment is food and drink, not dietary supplements. You can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy, balanced diet. Unless your doctor or dietician suggests supplements, you do not need them. Likewise, there are often stories in the media about specific foods or so-called ‘superfoods’ that are meant to be particularly good for us. But you should not rely on superfoods to reduce your risk of cancer. Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet.

Do You Recommend Keeping A Food Diary? If So, Why?

Yes if you really want to take control of you eating habits it may be worth considering keeping a food diary. We often are unaware of the calorie or fat content of our food so keeping track of what we are consuming can be very enlightening. In addition to this it is important to take time to read food labels. Be careful when reading claims on food packaging as they can be misleading. For example, ‘light’ or ‘reduced fat’ food may have less fat than a similar product but they can still be high in fat or sugar. Looking carefully at food labels can help you to make better choices.

How Important Is It To Be Physically Active?

There is clear evidence to tell us that physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of breast, bowel and womb cancer. It may also help prevent lung cancer. Not only does it reduce your risk of cancer but it also helps avoid weight gain, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes as well as making you feel better both physically and mentally. In women physical activity can lower the level of oestrogen. Oestrogen is thought to fuel the development of many breast and womb cancers, so reducing the levels of this hormone could help to reduce the risk. Activity can also reduce the amount of insulin in our blood. Insulin is very important in controlling how our bodies use and store energy from food. Changes in insulin levels can have effects all over the body. And scientists think insulin can turn on signals that tell cells to multiply. Because cancer starts when cells multiply out of control, lowering insulin levels could help stop some types of cancer developing. Physical activity also helps food move through our bowels more quickly reducing the amount of time that the lining of the bowel is in contact with any harmful chemicals, like those related to alcohol and red and processed meat. So there’s less chance of them being able to do any damage that could lead to cancer. Physical activity can reduce inflammation in our bowels. Inflammation is a normal part of the way our bodies react to injury or infections. But it can sometimes cause even more damage, particularly when it keeps happening in the same place. This can lead to the cells multiplying much more frequently than usual, to replace dead and damaged cells, which means there is more chance of the mistakes that can lead to cancer. Being physically active helps to keep inflammation under control in our bowel, reducing the risk of cancer developing. But physical activity doesn’t only reduce the risk of cancer. There are many other benefits and it is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:

Control your weight
Reduce your risk of heart disease
Reduce your risk of diabetes
Strengthen your bones and muscles
Improve your mental health and mood
Increase your chances of living longer

What Can Overweight People Do To Decrease The Risk Of Weight Related Cancers?

Healthy living’ is not a cast-iron guarantee against cancer. However it heavily stacks the odds in our favor. Making healthy choices regardless of what your weight is can reduce your risk of cancer. Experts estimate that up to 50% of cancer cases could be prevented by making these lifestyle changes. The European Code Against Cancer is a summary of the extensive body of evidence that is known to reduce the risk of cancer. By following these clear steps we all can reduce the risk of cancer. At the same time lead a healthier lifestyle:

If you smoke, plan to quit. Do not smoke in the presence of non-smokers
Avoid obesity
Undertake some brisk physical activity every day
Eat a healthy diet by increasing your daily intake of fruit and vegetables and by eating a range of foods low in fat and high in fibre
If you drink alcohol, cut down on the amount you drink
Protect yourself in the sun and avoid sunburn, especially in children.
See your doctor if you notice a lump, a sore that does not heal (including in the mouth), a mole that changes in shape, size or colour or bleeds
See your doctor if you have on-going problems, like a cough or hoarseness, a change in your bowel or bladder habits or unexplained weight loss
Participate in screening programmes when invited to attend

What Fundraising Do The Association Do?

The Irish cancer Society is a national charity which is funded almost exclusively by the generosity of the Irish public. We have a number of National and local fundraising initiatives form Daffodil day, Shave Or Dye, Relay For Life and many local community events.

What’s The Next Big Fundraiser Coming?

Movember: With your continued support we can change the face of men’s health in Ireland, particularly in prostate cancer support and research. Visit ie.movember.com

Finally, What Are The Three Most Crucial Bits Of Advice The Society Wants To Pass On To People Reading This?

You have the power to reduce your risk of cancer
Make small healthy changes every day
Please contact us if you need help or support with any cancer related issue or any information in this article call 1800 200 700
If People Could Do One Small Thing To Help The Society What Would You Recommend It Be?

Join with us in working towards a future without cancer. Contact us at www.cancer.ie National Cancer Helpline: 1800 200 700

 

Blog Post by Claire Jackson