14. Dec, 2017

The impact of lifestyle on cancer risk

In the last couple of days this topic has been all over every type of media. I first saw it on social media, then on the evening news, then in the following day's newspaper. It's not that we didn't know this was the case, it's the size of the impact that has probably shocked a few Australians. 

If for some reason you've been on a media ban, what I'm referring to is research findings from Brisbane's QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Researchers examined the exposure of just under 44,000 cancer patients from the past 20 years (the estimated time in takes from exposure or being affected by exposure to death) to eight key factors:

  • cigarettes/tobacco
  • diet
  • overweight or obese
  • alcohol consumption
  • physical activity levels
  • UV rays from the sun
  • hormonal factors
  • infections

What they found was that 38% of deaths (approximately 16,700 people) could potentially have been prevented. The first 3 factors in that list are in order. So if you're not a smoker, your diet is the number one factor in whether you die of preventable cancer. 

We have one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. According to the government's Cancer Australia website "in 2017, it is estimated that 16,682 new cases of colorectal (bowel) cancer will be diagnosed (9,127 males and 7,555 females)." That's over 12% of all cancer diagnoses.

Bowel cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, and it's preventable through simple dietary changes. To be frank, we eat too much red meat and not enough vegetables and wholegrains (sources of fibre) in Australia. That combination is killing us in too great a number and it needs to change so we can have not only long lives, but ones of good quality.  

"Prevention is better than a cure". Get more vegies and wholegrains in your diet, minimise the amount of processed food you eat, and take advantage of the free screening program (link below) once you hit 50. As always, see a university-qualified nutrition health professional (nutritionist or nutrition scientist) if you need help increasing the fibre or decreasing the amount of red meat in your diet. We are trained to help you change your recipes to healthier versions, and we love doing it!