About 44,000 Australian women are diagnosed with cancer each year.
The most common cancers are breast, bowel, melanoma and lung cancer. The risk for a woman being diagnosed with cancer before age 75 is 1 in 4 and before age 85 is 1 in 3.
The good news is that there are simple and effective actions you can take to reduce your chances of getting cancer, or to help find cancer early when there is a greater likelihood of a cure.
This section talks about the common cancers, healthy lifestyle tips to lower your risk of cancer, and what you can do at various stages of your life to help find cancer early.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a disease of the body’s building blocks called cells.
Cancer happens when genes become damaged and the cells begin to grow abnormally and out of control. Abnormal cells may grow into a lump called a tumour, which can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Cancer is not one disease but a range of diseases in which abnormal cells multiply and spread out of control. In some cancers (leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma) it is the body’s blood cells which multiply abnormally.
Ways to lower your cancer risk
There is no way to guarantee that you won’t get cancer but there are steps you can take to reduce your overall risk.
Cancer Council NSW recommends you:
- Quit smoking or, better still, never start
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active. Aim for at least 30 minutes, preferably more, on most days of the week.
- Enjoy a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Aim for 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day. A serve is about a handful.
- Eat a variety of wholegrain, wholemeal and high-fibre foods such as cereals, breads, rice and pasta. Aim for at least 2 serves a day, with half being wholegrain
- Limit or avoid drinking alcohol. The recommendation for women is no more than 1 standard drink a day. And try to have at least 1 or 2 alcohol-free days a week.
- Have moderate amounts of lean red meat and limit or avoid processed meat
- Choose a diet low in fat and salt.
- Protect yourself from the sun in five ways. Slip on clothing that covers your arms and legs, slap on a hat, slop on sunscreen, slide on sunglasses and seek shade.
- Get to know your body and what is normal for you, and see your doctor when you notice any changes.
- Have any recommended screening tests
What is cancer screening?
Screening is testing people for cancer who don’t have any symptoms. It’s a simple and effective way to detect some cancers early, when there’s a much better chance of successful treatment. Screening is recommended for breast, cervical and bowel cancer.
Download our brochure on preventing and reducing cancer in women – Women and Cancer (pdf 373 kb).