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How can you reduce your risk of cancer?

How can you reduce your risk of cancer?

Published at 3:37pm 28th December 2018. (Updated at 9:50am 2nd January 2019)

Yorkshire Cancer Research Promoted by
Yorkshire Cancer Research

With the festive season all but over and New Year's Resolutions on the horizon, now could be the time to consider your health and reducing your risk of cancer through minor changes to your lifestyle.

Many of us will have spent the Christmas period indulging ourselves with family and friends, but January brings with it a perfect opportunity to start the new year right in terms of our health. 

Yorkshire Cancer Research has identified some of the major causes of cancer in our everyday lives and have some key tips on reducing your risk and improving your wellbeing.  


It is common knowledge that excess sugar in your diet is stored as fat, leading to an increase in body weight and in some cases cause you to be overweight

Those added pounds are linked to several types of cancer in the body, so make the change and reduce your intake this January to lower your risk.

How can I reduce my intake?

  • Sugary drinks - Bottles and cans of fizzy drink are a popular choice, particularly during the festive period, but replace those sugary beverages with water to see a dramatic decrease in your sugar intake.
  • Tea and Coffee - Lots of us enjoy a spoonful or two of sugar in our teas and coffees, but reducing two heaped spoonfuls to one (or one to a half...) will make a positive difference to your health.
  • Small daily changes - Managing your sugar intake doesn't mean making huge changes to your lifestyle. Minor changes to your day-to-day diet throughout the week is enough to keep your risk of cancer at a low level.
coffee beans sugar


Alcohol consumption increases noticeably throughout December and New Year as we celebrate with friends and family. However, alcohol can cause up to seven types of cancer, including breast, mouth and bowel cancer. 

Government guidelines suggest our alcohol intake should not exceed 14 units per week, which is the equivalent of 6 pints of beer, 6 glasses of wine or 14 single shots of spirits.

How can I reduce my intake?

  • Dry January - New Year's resolutions will be made throughout the country as we vow to make a change in 2019, many of which will involve Dry January. Staying away from alcohol throughout January for the event is a popular choice and a good way to decrease consumption. 
  • Reducing alcohol throughout the year - Slightly reducing your alcohol intake throughout the year will be most beneficial to your health, with it being recommended to avoid back-to-back days of drinking throughout the typical week.


Smoking is the leading cause of early death in Yorkshire and 1 in 2 long-term smokers die because of smoking. If you or someone you know is a smoker, quitting is the best possible thing you can do for your health.

How can I quit?

  • Local stop smoking services - The NHS runs several free stop smoking services to help you quit. Studies have shown you are four times more likely to quit with help.
  • Patches and chewing gum - Nicotine patches and gum are smoking replacements readily available over the counter at most pharmacies.
  • E-cigarettes - E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular in helping smokers quit the habit and are 95% less damaging to your health than smoking. 

Physical Activity

Being physically active is massively important for your health and reducing your risk. Government guidelines suggest we need 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, as well two days of strength-based exercises

How can I be more active?

  • Be more active at work - Lots of us have office jobs and spend most of our time sat behind a desk, but there are small things you can do throughout the day to be more active. Getting up and walking round the office and going to the toilet on a different floor to your own can be massively beneficial.
  • Increase moderate activity - 'Moderate activity' doesn't necessarily mean getting out and pounding the pavement or lifting heavy weights. Cycling, a brisk walk or even gardening a few times a week can be sufficient physical activity to maintain your fitness. 
  • Sign up for a run - Having the motivation of training for an upcoming charity run could be the kick-start your exercise regime needs. Yorkshire Cancer Research offer places on several big events including The Great North Run and Jane Tomlinson's Run For All events. The charity will also be holding its flagship event, the Selby Three Swans Sportive 2019, on September 1st 2019.

Food, diet and Nutrition

A lack of physical activity and being overweight can increase your risks of cancer but food, diet and nutrition are just as important in maintaining a healthy weight.

Eating well means eating a healthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, fibre and lean meats.

woman waist, salad

Sun Exposure

Many of us may have pale skin at this time of the year as sun exposure is rare during the winter months, but rectifying that with sunbeds can be hugely harmful to your health. 

Sunbeds can cause skin cancer through overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

How can I avoid overexposure?

  • Avoid sun beds 
  • Remember your sun lotion - If you're heading on holiday to sunnier shores, remember to pack your sun lotion! Yorkshire Cancer Research suggest SPF30 and that you check the back of each bottle for a minimum 4 star rating!
  • Stay out of the sun - When the sun is at it's highest and hottest, it is most dangerous. Try and stay out of the sun as much as possible between 11am and 3pm.

Nikki and Leah from Yorkshire Cancer Research spoke to Beth Parsons about what changes we can make to our everyday lives to reduce the risk of cancer.


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