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Lifestyle blamed for 3000 Victorian deaths each year

Tuesday 26 July, 2011

90% of Victorians surveyed failed to mention cancer screening as a means of reducing cancer risk

Cancer Council Victoria is urging Victorians to give themselves a mid-year health check in light of worrying research [1] that shows that only 10% of Victorians named screening when asked what they could do to reduce their cancer risk.

Victorians are putting their health in danger by underestimating the importance of simple cancer screening tests. In fact:

  • Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer haven't had regular Pap tests, yet Pap tests can prevent 9 out of 10 cervical cancers;
  • bowel cancer is Australian's second biggest cancer killer but if found early more than 90% of bowel cancers can be cured;
  • and 90% of women will still be alive five years after breast cancer diagnosis if early detection strategies are used, such as mammograms and being breast aware

Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre at Cancer Council Victoria, Craig Sinclair, said that greater community awareness of how individual lifestyle choices could impact cancer risk is essential to combat more than 3,000 preventable Victorian cancer deaths each year.

"There is a tendency for people to believe that cancer is out of their control, a product of environmental factors or family history, but in truth, one third of all cancer deaths are due to avoidable risk factors and less than one in 10 are caused by known faulty genes."

"Mid-year is a time when people take stock, sort out their taxes and finances, and revisit their professional goals for the year. We'd like to see Victorians using this mid-year marker as a health check-point too," said Mr Sinclair. 

When it comes to cancer, we need to have our facts straight: it's too important not too. Here is a reminder from the Cut Your Cancer Risk team on how you can cut your cancer risk by a third:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Women should aim for a waistline of less than 85cm while men need to be under 100 cm to significantly decrease the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses.
  2. Be physically active. Up to one hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily can cut your risk of cancer. There is good evidence that the risk of developing two of the most common Australian cancers, colon and breast, decreases with exercise.
  3. Quit smoking. More than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with a smoking-related cancer every year and lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer. So put down the cigarettes and call Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) or visit the Quit website for more advice.
  4. Limit alcohol. There's a strong link between alcohol consumption and cancer, so if you choose to drink, try and limit your alcohol intake to two standard drinks a day.
  5. Eat a balanced diet. Aim to eat five serves (about a handful) of vegies and two serves of fruit each day. Limit red meat to three to four serves (size of the palm of your hand) a week. Also try to cut back on processed meats like sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham.
  6. Get checked. Don't put off getting that lingering cough checked out by a doctor, keep an eye out for any changes in your skin and remember to have any regular tests such as Pap tests.
  7. Be SunSmart. In Victoria alone 357 people will die from skin cancer (melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer) each year – this is more than the state's annual road toll. So, Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide.

Not sure how healthy your lifestyle is and where you need to make changes? Take the Cut your cancer risk quiz.

Cancer Council Victoria's Cut Your Cancer Risk website is designed to help educate the community about cancer prevention through healthy lifestyle choices. Visitors to the site can calculate their cancer risk and set goals to cut their own individual cancer risk.

About the survey

The Cancer Issues Population Survey (CIPS) has been conducted in 2005, 2007 and 2010, by Cancer Council Victoria's Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer.

The most recent results were taken from a telephone survey of just under 3000 over 18 year olds in Victoria. The research was conducted during July 2010 by a market research company on behalf of Cancer Council Victoria.

1 - Cancer Issues Population Survey (CIPS) 2005, 2007 & 2010, Cancer Council Victoria, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. Changes in perception of body weight, physical activity and dietary factors in relation to cancer risk in the population: updated findings