Doctors tell: ‘How I prevent cancer’

Make simple lifestyle tweaks to minimise your cancer risk, prescribe four doctors.

Most of us know that the major anti-cancer messages include not smoking, getting regular checks and being vigilant about sun protection. However, there are many other ways to minimise your risk of developing almost all forms of cancer.

Here we look at simple, yet effective, ways that Australia’s top doctors protect themselves and their families.

1. Eat colour

Dr Cate Lombard, director of the Healthy Lifestyle Program, The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health

“I have five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day because they provide phytochemicals and fibre to protect the bowel. The brighter colours in fruit and vegetables contain more anti-cancer chemicals, such as antioxidants like vitamin C, and anthocyanins often associated with the colours in foods like blueberries, carrots and broccoli.

“I also exercise regular moderate activity helps prevent bowel cancer.”

2. Wind down without alcohol

Professor Helena Teede, director of research, The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health

“I limit myself to one or less standard drinks a day and personally find that less caffeine during the day means less craving for alcohol at night. Alcohol is one of the most well-established causes of cancers of the upper digestive tract, breast, colorectum, liver and stomach. The more you drink the higher your risk.

“For cancer prevention, the Cancer Institute NSW recommends alcohol be drunk in moderation, if at all. For me, better ways to wind down after work include exercise, walks with the family or cooking something non-taxing involving getting your hands dirty!”

3. Mind your lip

Dr Peter Alldritt

“Most people know to apply sunscreen to their faces but forget to protect their lips from UV exposure. I live in South Australia, which has the highest incidence of lip cancers in the world, so I never leave my front door during daylight hours without using a SPF 15 or 30+ lip balm.”

4. Switch to text

Associate Professor Richard Bittar, brain surgeon, director of Precision Neurosurgery

“I use a landline where possible and if that’s not an option I prefer text messaging or speaking on hands-free. I would also advise against keeping a mobile phone under your pillow for the alarm function.

“There’s evidence linking the long-term, frequent use of mobile phones to an increased risk of both malignant and non-malignant brain tumours. The latest studies have suggested that people who used their mobiles less than 30 minutes a day and who had been using them for less than 10 years were less likely to develop brain tumours than more frequent long-term users.

“I’m more concerned about young people who constantly hold mobile phone handsets against their heads. They should be encouraged to only speak on a mobile in an emergency and to choose text messages or other forms of communication instead.”

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