Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cancer
Scottish Government Viewpoint
MANY people think that cancer is due to chance, fate or just bad luck.
But there is now convincing evidence that about 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented if our lifestyles were to change for the better.
Smoking is responsible for about 19 per cent of cancers but diet, inactivity, alcohol and excess body weight combined account for a further 22 per cent.
Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of getting cancer significantly and that isn't possible for every disease.
If there was a drug that could achieve this level of prevention everyone would probably want to take it but there isn't one.
Scotland has introduced a number of policies like restrictions on tobacco use, minimum alcohol pricing and a range of action around food and drink available in the NHS and voluntary sectors.
However, everyone has a part to play in supporting the changes needed to reduce their risk of cancer.
Professor Annie Anderson of the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network (SCPN) said: "Obesity is growing within every community in Scotland.
"It is hard to manage your body weight and eating too much is a normal response when we are tempted by promotions, marketing and money off deals.
"Changing food and diet habits is likely to take time so start small."
The SCPN recommend the following tips to get you started...
• No eating between breakfast and lunch
• Trying eating/having two less biscuits, cakes or sweet drinks a day to start with
• Always have a jug of cold water in the fridge
• Use an old fashioned plate for dinner – and put less on it
• Save cakes for birthdays
Head of external affairs at Cancer Research UK Gregor McNie said: "It is important to know what is normal for you and to tell your doctor about any changes.
"They are more likely to be something less serious than cancer, but it's better to get checked out.
"It can be easy to put something new or different about your body down to things like getting older, but if you notice any unusual or persistent changes, it's important to go and see your doctor.
"Spotting cancer at an early stage, before people have any symptoms, is an important way to reduce cancer deaths.
"Because screening has harms as well as benefits it's vital that everyone is given clear, evidence-based information to help them decide whether to take up their screening invite."
Signs and symptoms
Here are some potential signs and symptoms of cancer that are worth visiting your GP about. Remember, having one of these doesn't mean you have cancer – it could be a sign of something else. But, either way, it's better to have your concern checked.
• A lump in the breasts, testicles or anywhere else that appears or an existing lump that gets bigger
• A sore that doesn't heal up – in the mouth, throat or on the skin
• A mole that changes shape, size or colour
• Any growth that appears on the skin and continues to grow
• Coughing up blood, or blood in the urine or mixed through stools (poo)
• A cough that doesn't go away, or a pain somewhere that won't settle
• A change in the pattern of going to the toilet
• Unexpected weight loss (when you have not been trying to lose weight)