Reducing the risk of cancer recurrence

Did you know that by making simple changes to 5 parts of our everyday life,can help reduce your risk of cancer and cancer recurrence?

Scientists estimate that we can help prevent 4 out of 10 cancers by:

Being physically active


Physical activity can  help you to avoid gaining weight and  has the extra benefit of reducing your risk of some cancers, including Kidney, Pancreas, Prostate and Lung.

You should aim to do at least two and a half hours of moderate activity every week. This is the same as 30 minutes on five days of the week.

A healthy body weight is one that makes you least likely to develop the several conditions that having too much body fat can cause – especially some cancers, but also heart disease and diabetes, among others.

Experts have developed an index called the body mass index (BMI) that takes your height and sex into account, to work out if you are a healthy weight. Click here for an example of one BMI calculator that you can use to work out if you are a healthy weight. 

Eating a healthy diet


A healthy diet is the right amount and variety of different foods that give you all the calories (energy) and nutrients you need to meet the particular needs of your body. A healthy diet is based mainly around plant foods, with plenty of vegetables and fruits, some pulses  like beans and peas, wholegrain bread and other starchy foods like pasta and rice.

Research shows that many types of cancer are more common in people who are overweight or obese, including two of the most common types of cancer in Ireland: breast and bowel cancers.  Regular meals with a wide variety of foods and reasonable portions are the way to protect yourself from obesity and the risks it poses to your health.

You can read Aveen Bannon, Dietitian, BSc Human Nutrition & Dietetics advice for eating well to prevent cancer, and to help recover from the disease after treatment by clicking here. Alcohol causes 7 types of cancers including head and neck, bowel and breast cancers.  No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, it is the alcohol itself that leads to the damage, no matter whether it is in wine, beer or spirits. Not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop cancer, however, scientists have found that the less alcohol you drink, the lower the  cancer risk.

Limiting how much alcohol we drink


It is recommended to drink no more than 11 standard drinks a week if you are a women and 17 standard drinks a week if you are a man. Be aware that your drink may contain more than one standard drink. For example, one pint has two standard drinks in it. A small glass of wine (100ml) is a standard drink. A large glass of wine (200ml) is two standard drinks.

These guidelines are intended for adults only. When considering these guidelines, it is important to remember that drinks should be spaced out over the week and should never be saved up to drink in one session. The HSE recommends that you aim for at least two alcohol-free days every week.


Quitting smoking

smoking-iconOne in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease. The annual death toll from smoking-related diseases in Ireland is at least 5,200, with many thousands more, and their families, affected through chronic illness and disability.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer – and it is avoidable. There is no safe way to use tobacco, and smoking is the most dangerous way to use tobacco. This is because the greatest cancer risk comes from the combustion of tobacco or tobacco smoke. Most toxic substances including carcinogens (cancer causing) are created during the burning process. The risk of lung cancer is 20-25 times higher in men and women who smoke compared to those who do not smoke.

If you are a smoker, speak to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on how to quit. You can also call the National Smoker’s Quitline for free on 1800 201 203 or Freetext QUIT to 50100.

Avoiding too much sun exposure and never using sunbeds

sun-iconSkin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland with over 10,000 cases diagnosed in 2015. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. That means that most cases of skin cancer are preventable. Whatever your age, the best way to enjoy the sun safely and protect your skin from sunburn is to follow the sunsmart code:

  • Always wear sunscreen
  • Choose a sunscreen that has a good protection aganst UVA and UVB rays as well as a high SPF
  • Know the UV index, particularly from April- September
  • Wear protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses
  • Never, ever use sunbeds
  • Seek some shade and avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm

To download our Your Health: Your Choice infographic and DL leaflet, click here. 

Mental Health

Looking after your mental health is an important part of keeping yourself healthy.  For more on how to take care of your mental health while recovering, visit  the Looking After Your Mental Health page.


Worried about cancer recurrence?

Cancer recurrence is when the same cancer comes back over a period of time because some cells from your cancer remained. Cancer can recur in the same place it did last time, near the place it was or in a completely new area.

Living with the fear of your cancer recurring is a very real and  normal fear to have.  Worrying about cancer coming back is usually most intense the first year after treatment. This worry usually gets better over time but for some it remains a constant challenge many years after treatment.

Don’t ignore your feelings. Many people try to hide or ignore  feelings like fear and anxiety, this then results in your feelings escalating and becoming more  overwhelming. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, your healthcare team and/or counselling professional.

Visit worries about cancer recurrence for more information.