freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Lifestyle and cancer: time to face facts? | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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Well, well. There was me in my little health journalistic bubble thinking that the link between lifestyle and cancer was pretty well known these days. But I was wrong.

According to a new study by the British Dental Health Foundation, no less, many of us don’t realise that cancer may well be preventable. And yes, before you say it, there are always terribly sad exceptions to this idea – the person who never smoked a cigarette in their life developing lung cancer, for instance. But the evidence is, I believe, overwhelming. You can reduce your risk of cancer – and with some types the link is stronger than others – if you lead a healthy life.

So what did this British Dental Health Foundation survey discover then? Well out of the 10 cancers the survey asked about, just over half of the people involved said skin cancer was the most preventable. That makes sense, doesn’t it? And it’s a testament to the effectiveness of the sun exposure/skin cancer messages that are thrown out every summer (even if many people ignore them).

Lung and mouth cancer were rated the second and third largely preventable cancers, but despite their clear association with the risks of smoking, only 41 percent  and 32 percent respectively of those who were asked identified them as avoidable.

Brain cancer was considered to be the least preventable, followed by breast, prostate and testicular cancer. The World Health Organisation, on the other hand, suggests more than 30 percent of cancers could be prevented ‘by modifying or avoiding key risk factors’ (in other words by not smoking, by eating healthily, by drinking moderately etc.).

The 30 percent preventable statistic sounds on the low side – I remember writing a few years ago, for instance, about US experts who claimed up to 70 percent of cancers could be prevented with the right lifestyle adjustments.

Yet many people are still confused about the issue. So in other words, health charities, the government and – yes, I admit it – health journalists aren’t doing their job as well as they should, are they? Or are many people simply resistant to the idea that lifestyle is very often crucial when it comes to disease risk for some reason or other?

On a lighter note, I’ve just read a story about a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which suggests women who eat at least two chocolate bars a week appear to have a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those of the same age and weight who rarely or never eat chocolate.

So there is a God!