Take positive steps to reduce your risk of cancer this World Cancer Day

Release Date

World Cancer Day takes place on 4 February each year with the aim of raising global awareness for a disease that causes millions of deaths each year, many of which are preventable.  

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, and around 115,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year in Australia.  While some risk factors are outside of our control, evidence shows that around one third of cancers are potentially preventable.

Your risk of cancer can be reduced by taking some simple steps, such as:


Quitting smoking

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia, with tobacco smoking the major cause of the disease.  By quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to passive smoke, you can decrease your risk. Quitting smoking can be hard, but there are many systems of support to help you quit.

For support and advice about quitting, see your GP or call the National Quitline on 13 78 48 (13 QUIT) or visit quitnow.gov.au


Being sun smart

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. It is vital that you protect yourself from the harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that can cause cancer, especially between 10am and 2pm (or 11am - 3pm during daylight saving) when the UVR level is at its highest. This can be done by following these simple steps:

  • Seek shade
  • Wear sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible
  • Put on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses
  • Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every two hours.

For more information about how to be sun smart, visit the Cancer Council Australia website.


Being active and maintaining a healthy diet

The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommend that, to achieve health benefits, you should participate in 30 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical activity most days. You should also enjoy a healthy, varied diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Healthy eating and being physically active will not only help to reduce your risk of developing some cancers, but will help you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease.

For more information, visit healthyactive.gov.au


Limiting alcohol intake

Alcohol consumption is associated with a raised risk of a range of cancers, including breast, liver, colon and mouth cancers.

Cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink can help to reduce your risk of cancer.The National Health and Medical Research Council has developed national guidelines for alcohol consumption to help reduce the risk of harm from alcohol. For more information, visit alcohol.gov.au


Finding cancer early

Finding cancer at an early stage increases the chances of successful treatment and improved survival. There are two ways you can act to find cancer early:

1. It's important to get to know your body and what is normal for you. If you notice anything unusual for you, see your doctor.  

2. The Australian Government operates the following screening programs for eligible Australians:

BreastScreen Australia
BreastScreen is a program for well women without symptoms aged 50-69 years, although women aged 40-49 and 70 years and older are able to attend for screening. Women can call BreastScreen on 13 20 50 every two years to book their free screening mammogram at a screening and assessment service nearest to them.

The National Cervical Screening Program
The program promotes routine screening with Pap smears every two years for women between the ages of 18 (or two years after first sexual intercourse, whichever is later) and 69 years.

For information about Pap smears, call the National Cervical Screening Program information line on 13 15 56.

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program
People who are within the eligible population (Australians turning 50, 55 or 65 years of age between January 2011 and December 2014, who hold a Medicare card or DVA gold card) are invited to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

For more information regarding screening for bowel cancer, speak to your doctor or call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20.