Seven steps to reduce your cancer risk

written by The WellBeing Team


It is estimated that one in three men and one in four women will be directly affected by cancer in their first 75 years of life and the World Health Organisation predicts that rates of cancer may increase by as much as 50 per cent by 2020. According to the Australian Cancer Council, one in three cancer deaths are preventable by adopting a “cancer-smart” lifestyle.

The World Health Organisation puts this figure at 40 per cent and in a 2005 press release the American Cancer Society stated that up to 60 per cent of cancers could be prevented through diet and lifestyle changes. So here are eight positive steps to cut your cancer risk.

STEP 1 Watch your waist

Your waist size can predict your cancer risk, according to the results of a 20-year study by Cancer Council Victoria released in 2007. A waist circumference greater than 100cm for men and 85cm for women was associated with a significantly increased risk of cancer.

Researchers at Harvard and the American National Institute of Health published results in April 2008 showing that women who carry excess fat around their waists are at an increased risk of early death from cancer compared to women with smaller waistlines.

Even normal weight women with high waist-to-hip ratios are at an increased risk. Excess fat around your waist significantly increases the risk of cancer of the colon and uterus and moderately increases the risk of cancers of the kidney, pancreas and breast (after menopause).

The fat that accumulates around your midsection, known as visceral fat, is very different from fat in other parts of your body. Visceral fat acts like an endocrine (hormonal) organ, secreting hormones and pumping out immune system chemicals directly into your blood stream. One of the hormones produced by visceral fat is oestrogen, which may help to explain the increased risk of both male and female hormonally related cancers such as prostate and breast.

Another effect of excess visceral fat is to reduce your sensitivity to insulin. The less sensitive you are to insulin, the more insulin your pancreas produces and the higher your insulin levels become.

High insulin levels may increase your risk of certain cancers including cancers of the colon, pancreas, prostate and breast. Insulin is also a powerful growth hormone and promotes cell growth and division. Cancer cells have up to 10 times more insulin receptors than normal healthy cells, making them more sensitive to the effects of insulin.

According to a 2007 study by Yale University’s School of Public Health, women with breast cancer and high insulin levels had a bleaker prognosis than their low-insulin counterparts.


Action plan:

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The WellBeing Team