How To Prevent Cancer?

What is cancer?

Cancer occurs when some of your body’s cells grow multiple out of control and eventually begin to spread to different body parts. These cells are usually damaged and considered abnormal cells. As they grow and multiply, they begin to form a lump known as a tumor. Your body is made of over a hundred million cells. For the body to thrive, it is vital for new cells to be produced and rebirthed from the old, damaged cells. 

According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetime. With Cancer Research's help, many people can now thrive and survive Cancer and even get cured.

Cause of cancer vs risk factor

So how do cells become abnormal or damaged? Genes play a vital role in cell division, they essentially tell the cells what to do and how to behave. They can instruct a cell to make something such as a protein or Ribonucleic acid. Genes also ensure that cells grow and reproduce properly to keep your body healthy. In some cases, genes can become compromised and begin to change and divide sporadically. This is known as mutation. Mutation can occur at any point during cell division and causes the cells to either:

  •  Start making too much protein that causes a cell divide.
  •  Stop making the protein that prevents cell division
  • Cause abnormal proteins to be produced that work differently from normal cells.

Cancer prevention is all about lowering risk factors

As mentioned earlier, the mutation is the main cause of abnormal cells being generated. We cannot prevent DNA mutation as this is inevitable. However, we can lower the chances of these mutations developing uncontrollably. According to a recent study, approximately 697,000 cancer cases (33% in men and 44% in women) in Europe were said to be preventable.1

So what are the preventable measures that can be taken to lower your chances of developing cancer?

Reduce exposure to carcinogens

There are a few substances that have been found to cause cancer, these are known as carcinogens. A person can be exposed to carcinogens through the environment or depending on their lifestyle choices, for example, smoking, eating processed foods, excessive sun exposure, and excessive alcohol consumption. In some cases, women who haven’t had the HPV vaccination are also at risk of developing cervical cancer.2 

Quit smoking

There is a plethora of research that suggests that smoking is one of the most common risk factors associated with cancer and is considered a carcinogen.3,4,5  Out of the 250 harmful chemicals found in tobacco, 69 are said to cause cancer.6 A recent study reported that newly diagnosed cancer patients who had gastrointestinal, esophagus, and liver cancers were all found to be active smokers.3 Continuous exposure to nicotine and tobacco can also lead to an increased risk of tumour growth.7 The Cancer Research Institute suggests quitting smoking can reduce carcinogen exposure risk. 

Reduce alcohol intake

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 750,000 diagnosed cancer cases worldwide were associated with excessive alcohol consumption. The most common cancers associated with alcohol consumption were liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum cancers. When you consume alcohol, your body breaks it down and produces a compound called acetaldehyde which is a harmful toxin said to cause cancer.8

Maintain a balanced diet and stay active

Research suggests that adopting a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing gastric cancer.9 Adopting healthy eating habits such as those recommended by Public Health England can lead to a decreased chance of developing cancer such as gastric cancer. Consuming red meat, processed foods, large amounts of salt, and oily foods is said to be linked to gastric cancer.10

Remember sunscreen

As excessive sun exposure is considered to be a carcinogen, it is vital to ensure that you always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and above whilst outside. People of all skin tones need to wear sunscreen to protect the skin from excessive exposure. You can also protect your skin by wearing a hat andsunglasses to block UV light from the skin surrounding your eyes.

Get vaccinated against HPV

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a type of sexually transmitted disease that is said to increase a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. Therefore it is vital to ensure that women are vaccinated against HPV to minimise their chances of developing cervical cancer.


Cancer is a disease that occurs in the body when abnormal cells are produced due to gene mutation. These cells spiral out of control and further spread to other body parts. Research has been invaluable in improving the quality of life of many cancer patients and has even contributed toward a cure for most cancer cases. Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer, such as exposure to smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sun exposure, chemical exposure, not having the HPV vaccination, as well as lifestyle habits. Reducing your exposure to these carcinogens lowers your risk of developing cancer. Adopting a healthy diet enriched in fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancers such as gastric cancer.


  1. Cabasag C, Vignat J, Ferlay J, Arndt V, Lemmens V, Praagman J et al. The preventability of cancer in Europe: a quantitative assessment of avoidable cancer cases across 17 cancer sites and 38 countries in 2020. European Journal of Cancer. 2022;.
  2. Usher-Smith J, Häggström C, Wennberg P, Lindvall K, Strelitz J, Sharp S et al. Impact of achievement and change in achievement of lifestyle recommendations in middle-age on risk of the most common potentially preventable cancers. Preventive Medicine. 2021;153:106712.
  3. Caini S, Del Riccio M, Vettori V, Raimondi S, Assedi M, Vignati S et al. The Prognostic Impact of Quitting Smoking at or around Diagnosis on the Survival of Patients with Gastrointestinal Cancers: A Systematic Literature Review. Cancers. 2022;14(16):3857.
  4. Smith J, Togawa K, Dresler C, Hawari F, Zain Z, Stewart B et al. Smoking cessation after a cancer diagnosis: Commentary on special supplement in Cancer Epidemiology. Cancer Epidemiology. 2022;79:102210.
  5. Phua Z, MacInnis R, Jayasekara H. Cigarette smoking and risk of second primary cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiology. 2022;78:102160.
  6. Shin V, Wu W, Chu K, Wong H, Lam E, Tai E et al. Nicotine Induces Cyclooxygenase-2 and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 in Association with Tumor-Associated Invasion and Angiogenesis in Gastric Cancer. Molecular Cancer Research. 2005;3(11):607-615.
  7. How tobacco smoke causes disease. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.
  8. Lee M. Factors affecting the change in fruit and vegetable intake and adherence to a diet plan in patients with gastric cancer. Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing. 2022;9(5):100062.
  9. NTP (National Toxicology Program). 2021. Report on Carcinogens, Fifteenth Edition. Research Triangle Park, NC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
  10. Kim M, Sasaki S, Sasazuki S, Tsugane S. Prospective study of three major dietary patterns and risk of gastric cancer in Japan. International Journal of Cancer. 2004;110(3):435-442.

Kadi Ajilogba

Master of Science - MS, Adult Health Nurse/Nursing, Keele University, England

With over 10 years of experience working within the healthcare industry, in both acute and mental health settings, I pride myself in being able to cater to the patient's needs using a holistic approach. I am an advocate for promoting patient safety and wellbeing and I also embrace the notion of making every contact count with patients of different backgrounds and cultures.

I have worked in mental health settings which means that I am able to deal with patients presenting with challenging behaviours or those perhaps going through a crisis. I am trained in PMVA (Prevention Management of Violence and Aggression) as well as Team Teach which looks at teaching positive behaviour management in order to support young people going through a mental health crisis. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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