February 4 marks World Cancer Day, a day that shines a spotlight, or more accurately – spotlights, on our battle with the disease.
This year’s theme is ‘Close the Care Gap’.
The care gap comes in many forms around the world, and here in Australia, it often revolves around education on, and access to screenings and preventive measures.
The entire Complete Care Pharmacy community of health professionals are big advocates of closing the care gap, that’s in terms of all health conditions.
As such, we’re listing six simple but possibly lesser-known steps you can easily incorporate into your routine to reduce the risk of cancer.
Know what increases the risks of developing cancer
Cancer is caused by uncontrolled abnormal cell growth. Normally, cells in our bodies grow, divide and die in a regular, balanced way.
Mutations in DNA can disrupt this balance, leading to the formation of cancerous cells.
These mutations can be caused by many circumstances, a common example being consistent exposure to carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and certain chemicals.
Inherited genetic factors can also lead to cancer.
Once a cell becomes cancerous, it can avoid or be unaffected by the body’s normal regulation, multiply uncontrollably and potentially spread to other parts of the body, forming a tumour.
Reducing exposure to known risk factors and having a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer.
But that’s certainly not always easy to achieve.
Know your sunscreen
Of course, everyone knows that applying sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of skin cancer when spending time outside.
The accuracy of UV index ratings and our ability to Google them in a few seconds are also hugely helpful, as sunscreen and sun protection are important pretty much every day in Australia.
But what do the ratings on sunscreen actually mean?
SPF50+ does not mean you get 50% shade or more when wearing it for example.
SPF = Sun Protection Factor.
The SPF rating indicates how much UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation potentially reaches your skin when the sunscreen is applied correctly.
UVB radiation is a dangerous type of ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun that can cause sunburn and skin cancer.
The number following SPF indicates how much UVB radiation is potentially NOT filtered.
For example, SPF50 means 1/50th of UVB radiation is estimated to get through to your skin, and 49/50ths (98%) is filtered out when applied correctly. That’s compared to not wearing sunscreen at all, obviously a poor decision.
SPF30 allows 1/30th the amount of UVB rays to reach the skin compared to not wearing sunscreen at all. 1/30th = 3.3%, so 96.7% of UVB rays are potentially filtered.
Take note of the label.
Since these ratings are most accurate when you wear the sunscreen as directed, read the directions on the label.
Sweat, pool water and chlorine and seawater can affect the level of protection you’re getting.
Beware of sauces and dressings
Many of us make conscious efforts to eat healthier but forget the amount of sauces that go into certain dishes, and certainly forget to read their labels.
Many commercial sauces and dressings contain high levels of added sugar and sodium, unhealthy fats and preservatives.
Some highly processed ones can contribute to an unhealthy diet, potentially increasing the risk of cancer.
For example, 1 tablespoon of average soy sauce contains nearly 40% of the daily recommended 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
BBQ sauce is often one third sugar, pre-made bottled sauces such as oyster and teriyaki sauce can also be very high in sodium. Some contain almost 50% sugar too.
(Sources: smh.com.au, USDA, healthyfood.com)
While it’s next to impossible to know exactly how much sugar, sodium and other additives go in a takeaway meal, take a look at the condiments in your trolley next time you go shopping.
The fine print is often quite alarming.
Opt for low-salt, unsweetened sauces and dressings, and if you can, make your own. In almost all cases, food cooked at home is much healthier.
Make and stick with healthier choices
Similar to being aware of the condiments you consume, are healthier choices.
Making even one or two small changes to your routine and/or diet can have huge positive impacts on your risk of developing health conditions, including cancer.
For example, you might opt for black coffee with no sugar a few times a week, bring a packed lunch more often or have more alcohol-free weekends.
Small changes are easier to make as they don’t require serious investment (you’ll often end up saving money instead) or take much discipline or big change.
Limiting your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks and red or processed meats contributes to a cancer-preventive lifestyle too.
The next time you’re thinking about what to eat, replace any processed foods with more natural ones like a salad or homemade sandwiches over chips or fast food.
Lastly, taking steps to reduce stress, staying well hydrated (with water, not alcohol or soft drinks) and consulting with health professionals regularly can contribute to a lifestyle that decreases the likelihood of developing cancer.
Write down stressors and deal with them
Speaking of stress, did you know that it can contribute to a host of health concerns, including the development of some cancers?
Chronic stress can contribute to health concerns by triggering inflammation in the body.
Stress can also adversely affect immune function, impairing the body’s ability to defend against abnormal cell growth.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption or junk food, further escalate cancer risks.
Here’s a great idea. Write down stressors in your life and think about how you can minimise them. A note on your phone works well as it’s easy to edit and view on the go.
With a written list, it’s much easier to see exactly what’s causing you stress, make detailed notes on how to reduce them, refer to it when needed and see your progress.
Even with notes, reducing stress can be tough and something to lose sleep over. Luckily, there’s a range of products available, including plant-based medicine, that can significantly help.
If stress is negatively impacting your quality of life, get in touch with us. We’re here to help.
Know what supplements might be beneficial for you
Beneficial specifically to you we mean. There’s a huge range of supplements available in this day and age, all with different benefits, strengths and reasons for consumption.
Supplements can contribute to cancer risk reduction by providing nutrients that support overall health.
For instance, vitamin D supplements can help regulate cell growth and promote a healthy immune system, potentially lowering the risk of certain cancers.
Antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, are other examples. They can neutralise free radicals that may contribute to cancer development.
Compounding medicine also plays a role in contributing to a healthy lifestyle, especially for people who may have bad reactions to certain off-the-shelf medication.
It’s important to note that supplements should be taken as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle—not instead of.
Professional advice is also part of the selection process.
Come or click into a Complete Care Pharmacy for one of our professionals to find supplements per your circumstances or talk you through and advise on any concerns you may have.