Dr Miriam Stoppard's Health Focus: AVOIDING CANCER; THE Ultimate Goal of Cancer Research Is to Prevent Cancer and That Doesn't Simply Mean Preventing Deaths from Cancer. Preventing Cancer from Ever Happening by Changing Our Behaviour and Lifestyle Would Be a Major Way of Controlling the Disease
Stoppard, Dr Miriam, The Mirror (London, England)
Your DIY guide to a longer life
IT'S estimated that about 80 per cent of cancers could be avoided by prevention alone.
Of course, some risk factors such as old age can't be prevented but here are some simple things you can do to help protect you and your family from cancer.
A study of almost 90,000 twins has shown that cancer is most probably caused by where you are, what you do and what happens in your life, rather than by who you are.
Scientists have long argued that cancer is caused by a combination of environmental factors, such as smoking, diet, pollution and radiation from the sun, together with the actions of damaged genes.
We already know that about 35 per cent of cancers are associated with smoking, with perhaps another 30 per cent diet related.
What we're still not certain of is, how far people are doomed to cancer through having been born with faulty genes in the first place, and how far genes can be damaged by the environment.
Even if you have a high risk because you have a family history, you still probably won't get cancer - what you do with your life is much more important. You shouldn't smoke and you should pay attention to your diet. Those things do make a difference.
Protect yourself from the sun
SKIN cancer is the commonest form of cancer in the UK, with an estimated 50,000 cases recorded per year in the UK.
Although the vast majority of these cases are a type of skin cancer called non-melanoma and are only very rarely fatal, some skin cancers (melanoma) are more dangerous and kill 1,500 people each year.
The biggest environmental risk factor for the development of skin cancer is sun exposure.
Evidence suggests that sunburn in childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer (including melanoma) later in life. The ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun that tans the skin is also responsible for damaging it.
Avoiding sun between 11am and 3pm, taking care to cover up and wearing high sun protection factor sunscreen for your skin type, will reduce your exposure to UV light.
Children need extra attention, as they are unlikely to cover themselves.
Remember your family
FAMILY history can play a part in the development of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer for some people.
Although most cancers appear within the same family by chance, some people are at an increased risk of developing the disease as a result of inheriting faulty genes from their parents.
There is one kind of gene that links bowel cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer in different family members and runs through several generations.
If you belong to a family like this, it's wise to enrol at a special cancer clinic where you can have the appropriate tests and checks throughout your life.
Even if you do have a family history of cancer, your risk may not be as high as you think.
If there's any form of cancer running through your family, particularly if it tends to occur at a young age, talk to your GP and discuss whether you need to be referred to a genetic clinic. …