February 4 marks World Cancer Day, which aims to unite the whole world in the fight against cancer and raise awareness of the disease.
As more and more research focuses on how our lifestyle can affect our risk of developing cancer, here we round up some of the latest findings which suggest small everyday changes we can make to help reduce our risk and improve health overall.
Don’t feel guilty about your coffee habit
Although experts are not calling for anyone to take up drinking coffee to prevent diseases such as cancer, many recent studies have concluded that if you already love a morning cup of java then carry on with your daily habit, linking moderate coffee consumption to a lower risk of several cancers, including prostate, endometrial, skin and liver cancer. Most studies suggest that one to three cups a day brings health benefits, however many researchers caution against drinking more as excess caffeine consumption may bring health effects, and also advise limiting coffee intake while pregnant.
Meat in moderation
A large, high-profile 2015 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which analyzed more than 800 studies made headlines when it revealed that eating a large amount of processed meats such as sausages, ham, and beef jerky, and red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb, could increase the risk of cancer of the colon, rectum, pancreas, and prostate. Although the World Health Organization responded to the report by saying that there is no need for people to stop eating meat altogether, it acknowledged that reducing meat consumption could be a good idea. Various other recent studies have also found that reducing meat consumption in favor of a more plant-based diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and legumes, could have a positive effect on health overall and help reduce the risk of cancer.
Maintain a healthy weight
According to recent research, being overweight or obese exponentially increases the chance of suffering from heart disease or cancer, finding that women who are obese are 12 times more likely to develop cancer than women who were a normal weight, and women who were classed as overweight but not obese still had four times the risk of cancer than those who were normal weight.
The risk was not as high for men, but being obese still doubled a man’s likelihood of developing some type of cancer. However, there was some good news, with researchers finding that even small weight reductions can bring huge health benefits, with the team advising a healthy diet and physical exercise to try to maintain a healthy weight.
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
Although current guidelines tell us to get our 5-a-day, a recent meta-study that looked at nearly two million people worldwide found that consuming ten portions of fruit and vegetables brings even greater benefits. The researchers found that eating 800 grams of fruit and vegetables every day — equivalent to 10 portions — decreases risk of death and also reduces cancer risk by 13%. The team also found that green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables were particularly beneficial for reducing cancer risk.