Cancer Prevention Week

Every year in the West Midlands more than 26 thousand people are diagnosed with cancer, that's 70 people every day and 3 people every hour.

So for Cancer Prevention week health bosses in the region are once again raising the profile of the disease and reminding us to lead healthy lifestyles.

Many people believe that getting cancer is purely down to genes, fate or bad luck. But through scientific research, we know that our risk actually depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and aspects of our lives, many of which we can control.

In the UK, one in three people will develop cancer at some point in their lives but experts estimate that up to half of these cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes, such as:

  • not smoking
  • cutting back on alcohol
  • keeping a healthy body weight
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • keeping active
  • staying safe in the sun

Is prevention a guarantee?
Preventing cancer doesn’t work in the same way as preventing infectious diseases by injecting vaccines.

‘Healthy living’ is not a cast-iron guarantee against cancer. Instead, it "reduces the risk" of the disease - it heavily stacks the odds of avoiding it in our favour.

For example, we know that it’s possible for a heavy smoker to live a cancer-free life, while someone who never touches cigarettes could develop lung cancer. But if we look at the UK as a whole, we can clearly see that non-smokers are far less likely to develop cancer than smokers.

In the same way, careful drivers cannot guarantee that they will never get into an accident due to events beyond their control, but they are much less likely to do so than reckless ones.

Can lifestyle changes really make a difference?
Yes, and not just for cancer. In 2008, a large study worked out how a combination of four healthy behaviours would affect your health. These were: not smoking; keeping active; moderating how much alcohol you drink; and eating five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.

People who ticked all four healthy boxes gained an average of 14 years of life compared to people who did not do any of them. By the end of the study, they were less likely to have died from cancer or heart disease.