How you can reduce your cancer risk for 2021?

Simple and easy lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cancer in the New Year. 

The festive season may look very different this year but this Christmas and New Year is still a great opportunity to make some simple changes that will improve your health and reduce your risk of cancer. We’ve picked out some of our most important lifestyle tips to help you kick off 2021 as you mean to go on.

Eat less meat for your bowel

Whilst restricted socialising this Christmas is disappointing for many, it could be a great opportunity to reduce the amount of red meat you eat. There is strong evidence that a diet high in red and processed meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer. Trying to reduce your consumption is therefore a great way to improve your health and could be a good chance to try some new recipes. Veganuary might be a bit much for some but why not try adding in a couple of vegetarian meals a week in the New Year?

This has the added benefit of increasing your veg intake which is not only good for overall health but there’s also evidence to suggest that a diet high in fibre could help to reduce your bowel cancer risk. High fibre foods include many vegetables as well as wholegrains, nuts, seeds and pulses.

Here are some other ways you can reduce your risk of bowel cancer:

  • Reducing your weight if overweight or obese
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Stopping smoking – find out more about starting a smoking cessation programme with the NHS by clicking here.
  • Having regular bowel cancer screening for age 45+

Check your breasts

January is a good time of year to make new habits. One for 2021 should be to check your breasts monthly so that you are familiar with how they normally look and feel and can spot any changes as early as possible. It’s a good idea to check them at the same time each month as your breasts naturally change over the course of the month with changing hormone levels. Becoming familiar with what’s normal for you will make it much easier to spot anything unusual. If you’re not sure what signs to look out for, check out our recent blog on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

A number of changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer including:

  • Having children, especially at a younger age, and breastfeeding
  • Reducing your weight if overweight or obese
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Avoiding HRT or oral contraception where possible
  • Having regular breast cancer screening from age 40+ depending on your risk

Diagnosing cancer as early as possible is essential to improving the outcome so make checking your breasts a priority in 2021.

Scared of a smear test? 

Attending a cervical smear test can be intimidating whether you’re embarrassed, don’t know what to expect or scared by a previous experience. But don’t let this put you off. Cervical cancer is a very treatable disease if detected in its earliest stages so getting checked regularly is hugely important.

There are also a number of changes to your lifestyle which can significantly reduce your risk of cervical cancer including:

  • Limiting your number of sexual partners
  • Being vaccinated against HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
  • Having regular cervical screening from age 25+
  • Stopping smoking – find out more about starting a smoking cessation programme with the NHS by clicking here.

If you’re due a scheduled smear test in 2021, then try your best to attend the appointment if you can and try some of these tips to make it more comfortable. We understand that some people really can’t attend a cervical smear though, and that’s fine! Check4Cancer offers an at-home test to check for HPV (the virus that can lead to cervical cancer) so that anyone can get checked. HPVCheck is a fast and more convenient way to test for the HPV virus in the privacy of your own home. 

Give your lungs a breath of fresh air

Make 2021 the year you quit smoking – it’s obvious but that’s why it’s so important! Whilst smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer, it is a massive factor. Around 72% of lung cancer deaths in the UK are caused by tobacco smoking and tobacco smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than 21% of all cancer deaths in the UK. Quitting smoking this year could dramatically reduce your cancer risk, as well as helping to improve overall health (and save you money!). It’s not easy, but support and advice is there to help you make this important change. 

If you are a smoker and /or have a close family of lung cancer, consider lung cancer screening from age 50+

Did someone say healthy diet and exercise? 

Fad diets and fitness fads fly around at this time of year to help people shed some of the Christmas excess but any healthcare professional will tell you a healthy diet and regular exercise is THE BEST way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for many cancers so reducing your weight to a healthy level is a positive step in reducing your cancer risk. 

Dreaming of the summer sun 

In these long, cold winter nights, the summer sun seems a long way off, especially with trips abroad still not an option. That doesn’t mean we should forget to protect our skin when we are able to get back out in the sunshine. Around 80% of skin cancers are caused by over exposure to the sun and use of sunbeds and rates of malignant melanoma are rising faster in the UK than any other common cancer. Covering up in the sun and wearing a good quality, high factor sun cream is important to remember, as is keeping an eye on your skin and getting any symptoms checked as soon as possible.

You can significantly reduce your risk of skin cancer with a number of changes to your lifestyle, such as:

  • Avoid over exposure to the sun
  • Avoid the use of sunbeds
  • Wear a hat or protective clothing to protect your head, face, neck and shoulders
  • Apply a high factor 4* rated waterproof sunscreen every two hours
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection
  • Move into the shade from 11.00hrs – 15.00hrs when UV is strongest
  • Consider regular skin cancer screening

2020 has been a pretty tough year so let’s make 2021 a better one and make the changes we’ve all been meaning to improve our health and reduce our risk of cancer. And remember, check for cancer – it could save your life!