A Few Simple Changes Can Cut the Risk of Getting Cancer; One of the Major Risk Factors in Developing Cancer Is Age. Matthew Thornton, Senior Lecturer in Cancer Care and Gail Lusardi, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing at the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education at the University of South Wales, Look at the Actions We May Be Able to Take to Help Lower Our Risk

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Areport last year by Age UK provided a clear picture as to the profile of the UK's ageing population. There are 22 million people over the age of 50, approximately a third of the UK's population. The number of people aged over 75 is set to double over the next 30 years, with a third of people today expected to live to see their 100th birthday.

Cancer is associated with age. As an individual ages, the risk of developing it increases, with 89% of cancers diagnosed in the over-50s. The association between age and cancer presents a powerful challenge to society.

A report earlier this month by the World Health Organisation reinforces this challenge on a global level.

Cancer is a key public health priority and although week by week we hear of potential breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment, prevention will always be better than cure. Significantly reducing the risk of developing cancer is not costly and is within our hands. This article will explore a range of steps that individuals can take to reduce the chance of developing cancer and increase the likelihood of living a longer, healthier life. Cancer is a disease that we all know and fear. Statistically it affects over a third of us and accounts for one in four deaths. However, the news is not all bad. Each year when reports measuring survival rates are published, the news is positive, with survival rates increasing for most cancers. This is good news but cancer remains a major health problem in both Wales and the UK.

There is renewed emphasis from politicians, health strategists and health and social care agencies on exploring ways to keep people healthy and so reduce the risk of developing cancer and other chronic health conditions.

Cancer Research UK produced a report in 2011 revealing that 40% of cancers could be avoided by lifestyle changes. Cancer is a complex disease involving genes responsible for cell division change. These faulty genes allow cells to divide outside the normal tight biological control systems of the body. These genes may be inherited, increasing the risk of developing cancer, as in the case of 10% of breast cancers, or the genes may develop faults over the course of a lifetime. The faults may also develop following exposure to a range of external factors. We can't at present do much with the faulty genes we inherit, but we can do much to change what we are exposing our bodies to on a daily basis.

The following is a selected list of lifestyle behaviours that can make a real impact in reducing the risk of developing cancer: SMOKING REMAINS A KEY HEALTH PROBLEM IN WALES Smoking is the cause of the vast majority of lung cancers, but unfortunately, most lung cancers are found too late for effective treatment. For an individual aged 50 who has smoked most of their working life, stopping smoking today can not only reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by 50% but also reduce and prevent other major killers such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease and respiratory diseases. While the message is simple - stop smoking - the action is more difficult. For many, smoking is a physical and psychological addiction.

It is also hard for a younger smoker to consider the consequences of 30 years of smoking, even when confronted by graphic pictures and descriptions of the effects. Advice, guidance and ongoing support is available from your GP or practice nurse. Advice can also be found online from Stop Smoking Wales.

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT More than half of the UK population is overweight or obese - in some regions, this figure is more than 70%. Being overweight also results in additional hormones being made that can stimulate cells to divide. Over time, this can contribute to cancer cells developing and also increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and cardiovascular disease. There is no quick-fix diet. The maths is fairly simple - calories taken in should equal calories burnt off. …