Daffodils are both a sign of spring and a symbol of hope for the Canadian Cancer Society. The flowers are sold each April to raise money to support the fight against cancer. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 565 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every day. Chances are that you know someone who has or did have cancer. You have probably witnessed firsthand the pain and fear cancer can bring to individuals, family member and friends.

Join the Fight Against Cancer: Reduce Your Risk


Cancer is a scary word for most people. Statistics show that one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Those who have never had cancer themselves may still be touched by the disease through family members or friends.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease caused when the cells in the body become abnormal and continue to divide which can result in tumours. These abnormal cells can also spread to other parts of the body. Most cancers are named after the part of the body where they start. For example, cancer that starts in the colon is called colon cancer.

Risk factors for cancer

Like other chronic diseases, cancer has a number of risk factors that can be classified in two ways:

  • Risk factors, you cannot control, such as age and family history
  • Risk factors, you can control, such as unhealthy diet and smoking

Learn more about what causes cancer at the Canadian Cancer Society

How to reduce your risk

A number of lifestyle choices and health-related actions can affect your risk of developing cancer. Reduce your risk with the following recommendations.

Healthy eating

  • There is no miracle food or supplement that can prevent cancer.
  • Choose a variety of whole or minimally processed foods including: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, , dairy products and lean meats and meat alternatives
  • Limit intake of processed foods high in fat, starches and sugar, salt and red and processed meat.
  • Practice intuitive eating and tune into your hunger and fullness cues to eat the right amount for you.
  • Use the healthy plate model as a guideline– one-half vegetables, one-quarter whole grains, one-quarter lean meat or alternatives.

Physical activity

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity each day.
  • Choose an activity (or a variety of activities) that you like: walking, biking, swimming and dancing are just a few examples of moderate activity.
  • Be active with a family member or friend to keep you accountable.
  • Write the activity in your schedule – you will be more likely to keep the appointment!

Healthy weight

  • A healthy diet and regular exercise will help you maintain a body weight that is right for you.
  • Speak with your doctor about what a healthy body weight is for you.

Alcohol

  • Drinking any type of alcohol raises your risk of cancer.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, limit it to less than one drink per day for women and less than two drinks per day for men.
  • One drink = 12 oz beer; 5 oz wine; 1.5 oz spirits
  • Measure your drinks for a while so you can learn to accurately estimate your intake.

Smoking

  • In Canada, smoking is responsible for 30% of cancer deaths.
  • If you quit smoking, in 10 years your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. You will also reduce your risk of heart attack and be able to breathe easier.
  • Talk to your doctor about developing a quitting program or consult a guide.

Vitamin D

  • Some evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a role in cancer prevention, particularly colorectal amd breast cancers.
  • Sources of vitamin D include sunlight, some foods and supplements.
  • Drink two cups of milk every day, and aim to eat fatty fish at least twice a week to maximize your vitamin D intake. Health Canada recommends taking a 400 IU supplement for adults over age 50.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether a vitamin D supplement is right for you.

Sun and ultraviolet rays (UV)

  • Exposing skin to UV rays from the sun, and tanning beds increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Slip, slop and slap to protect yourself. Slip on sun-protective clothing and sunglasses. Slop on sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours. Slap on a hat.
  • Check your skin regularly, and notify your doctor if there are any changes.

Screening

  • Early detection typically means the cancer is easier to treat.
  • Know your body
  • Screening tests can help find some types of cancer early. Talk to your doctor about your history and whether a screening test is appropriate for you.

Are you looking for more information on cancer prevention? Visit the prevention section of the Canadian Cancer Society website for more information.

Article revised December 2018

Jaclyn Chute

Registered Dietitian

Jaclyn (BSc, RD) is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Alberta Milk. Integrating the science of nutrition with the taste of great food is her passion, whether at work or in her kitchen.

Article posted on April 1, 2012



Active Tip

Create a healthy working environment by taking frequent breaks though out the day to release muscle tension. Stand up, move around and stretch.

The Expert Says

Alberta Milk registered dietitian Jaclyn Chute says, “Despite the statistics, hope still exists. Screening, diagnoses and treatment have improved over the years. As well, up to 35% of all cancers can be prevented by being active, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight. The choices you make today can reduce your risk.”