According to the Canadian Cancer Society, at least half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of Canadians. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health recommends that you make the lifestyle choices below, which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Avoid smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in Canada. Smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in Canada. Other cancers that are linked to smoking include cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum, and bladder.
People exposed to second-hand smoke are also at higher risk of getting lung cancer and other lung diseases.
Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains each day.
As much as one third of all cancers may be related to what we eat and drink. Follow the guidelines listed in Canada’s Food Guide. You will benefit from eating vegetables and fruit at all meals and as snacks. Make at least half of your daily grain products whole grain such as barley, brown rice, and oats. Limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat, and sugar.
Limit alcohol use.
Alcohol consumption is related to cancer of the pharynx, esophagus, larynx, colon, rectum, liver, and oral cavity in both men and women, as well as the breast in women (even at low levels of consumption).
Overall cancer risk is determined by the average volume of alcohol consumed, the patterns of drinking, and by the amount of drinking that occurs outside of meals.
To lower your cancer risk it is recommended that you follow the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines developed by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Be physically active most days of the week.
Physical inactivity has been linked to colon and breast cancer. Thirty to sixty minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week is part of a healthy lifestyle and can help lower your risk of cancer.
Protect your skin and eyes.
While many of us enjoy being outdoors and outdoor activities, it's important to ensure we enjoy the sun safely. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and/or tanning beds can damage the skin and eyes.
Overexposure to UV rays can lead to:
- Skin cancer
- Sun burns
- Skin damage (e.g. wrinkles, premature aging)
- Eye damage
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada. UV rays are the main risk factor for skin cancer. While everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, it is one of the most preventable cancers.
Enjoy the sun safely and reduce your risk of skin cancer by practicing sun safe behaviours all year long. Consider these general sun safety tips:
- Consider the time of day. If you can, limit time in the sun when the UV index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Seek shade or make shade by using an umbrella, a UV protective tent, or pop-up shade shelter.
- Cover up. Wear UV-protective clothing, or clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Wear a wide brimmed hat or a baseball cap with flaps that cover the head, neck, and ears.
- Wear sunscreen. Apply plenty of sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and ensure the sunscreen is labelled ‘broad spectrum’ and ‘water resistant’. Reapply when needed, especially after swimming, sweating, or towelling. Use a lip balm that contains SPF.
- Wear sunglasses. Wear close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection.
- Seek vitamin D elsewhere. Exposing yourself to UV rays is not the best way to meet vitamin D needs, and may result in unnecessary skin damage.
- Avoid tanning beds, which are a source of UV radiation. Using tanning beds before the age of 35 and frequent use, increases your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Protect yourself and others.
Under The Skin Cancer Prevention Act in Ontario, it is illegal to advertise, sell, or offer tanning services to youth under the age of 18.
If you believe a commercial operator is providing tanning bed services to someone under the age of 18, call Hastings Prince Edward Public Health at 613-966-5000 ext. 677.
Know your skin.
To help protect yourself, it is important to know your skin. Most skin cancers can be cured if caught early enough. Check your skin regularly so you can detect any changes.
- Know the location, colour, shape, and size of birthmarks/moles
- Look for new growths on your skin
- A sore that does not heal
When you check your skin, follow the ABCDEs of early detection:
If you notice any of the above, have a skin exam done by a doctor or other trained healthcare professional to tell you if the changes are normal or not.
Information adapted from the Ontario Sun Safety Working Group.
Talk to your doctor about regular cancer screening.
Participating in approved cancer screening programs can reduce your risk of cancer. Screening for cancer has been proven effective in finding cancer early and reducing cancer death rates. Use this simple tool to assess the cancers for which you should be screened.