Lifestyle & risk reduction

There are a number of lifestyle choices that can lower a person’s risk of developing cancer. Lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of cancer include smoking, sun exposure, lack of physical activity or poor diet. By changing behaviour, it is possible to reduce the risk of cancer.

While some risk factors are outside our control, you can reduce your risk of cancer by taking some simple steps, such as:

Quit smoking

  • Tobacco smoking continues to be the largest single cause of lung cancer and also contributes to the incidence of 13 other cancers. It accounts for 20.1% of the cancer disease burden in Australia.
  • Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of lung and other cancers. The National Quitline can be reached on 13 78 48 (13 QUIT).
  • Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke.

Be sun smart

  • It is estimated that there were around 2000 deaths in Australia from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in 2010.
  • Avoid using solariums and sunbeds, and be sun smart. Avoid excessive exposure to the sun and cover up with protective clothing and sunscreen to lower your risk of skin cancer.

Get active

  • Physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and may reduce the risk of other cancers, such as endometrial, lung, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.
  • The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommend that, to achieve health benefits, a person should participate in 30 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.

Maintain a healthy diet

  • Around 49% of Australians don’t eat enough fruit and 91% don’t eat enough vegetables.
  • An adequate intake of fruit and vegetables (at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day) may reduce the risk of cancers of the oral cavity, oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and lung.
  • Obesity is a risk factor for a number of cancers including breast, colon, endometrium and kidney. Adequate exercise and a nutritious, varied diet are the best ways to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Increasing your intake of high fibre foods such as wholegrains can reduce your risk of certain cancers. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults also advises men and women to limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake, choose foods low in salt and consume only moderate amounts of sugar and foods containing sugar.

Limit alcohol intake

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages, whether beer, wine or spirits, is associated with an increased risk of cancers including breast, liver, colon, head and neck cancers. Alcohol should be limited to no more than two standard drinks a day.