4 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

Cancer is a leading cause of death in the world, and Australia is no exception. Find out the tips on how to reduce your risk of cancer.

by Shona Yang

Cancer is a serious disease that continues to cause a significant number of mortalities in Australia. An estimated 162,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Australia in 2022. Based on current rates, one in two Australians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. Identify the risk factors associated with cancer, and learn how to reduce these risks with our four tips to help protect you or a loved one against the impacts of cancer. 

What is cancer? 

Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in the body grow or multiply abnormally. Cells are the basic building blocks of human bodies, and when functioning normally, cells will grow and multiply in a controlled manner. 

Cancer describes a state in which any type of tissue cell does not behave in a controlled way. Abnormalities in cells usually arise from errors in their genetic makeup. When these abnormal or ‘mutant’ cells amass, they form a tumour.

Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). 

Benign tumours do not spread outside their primary site. When they continue to grow at the original site, benign tumours can cause damage to surrounding organs. In some cases, doctors will advise removing a benign tumour to ensure the tumour does not develop into cancer if left untreated.

Malignant tumours are cancerous and may spread beyond their original site, invading other areas of the body when left untreated.

Most cancers originate within a primary organ, but when cancer spreads throughout the body, it causes damage to surrounding tissue or body parts. When cancer cells enter the body’s bloodstream and spread throughout the body, it is referred to as ‘metastasis’. 

What are the different types of cancer?

Cancer is a broad term. However, that can refer to different types. The different types of cancer are labelled after their site of origin or type of cell affected. For example, lung cancer originates in the lung, whereas prostate cancer originates in the prostate. 

Different types of cancer can be grouped into different categories, depending on its site of origin: 

  • Carcinoma: refers to a type of cancer that originates in the skin or in tissues that line internal organs
  • Sarcoma: a type of cancer that begins in a body’s supportive or connective tissues such as bone, muscle or blood vessel.
  • Leukemia: refers to a type of cancer that originates within blood cells. 
  • Lymphoma and myeloma: Types of cancers that affect cells in the immune system or the body’s central nervous system. 

Common types of cancer in Australia

Cancer can affect anyone. In fact, recent data reveals that cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia, with almost 55,000 cancer-related deaths in 2019.

Did you know? One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.

The prevailing types of cancer can differ among men and women. In Australia, the most common types of cancer are: 

  • Prostate cancer: Originating in the prostate gland, prostate cancer is a common type of cancer affecting males. It is estimated that one in six males will be diagnosed by the time they are 85.
  • Breast cancer: Commonly affecting women, breast cancer is a form of cancer that can also impact men. Learn more about breast cancer.
  • Bowel cancer: Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer affects the wall of the large bowel, made up of the colon or rectum. Learn more about bowel cancer.
  • Lung cancer: A serious disease that can impair your ability to breathe normally. The fifth most common type of cancer, lung cancer, accounts for 9% of all cancer diagnoses in Australia. Read more about lung cancer

These types of cancers account for almost 60% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia.

Can cancer be treated? 

Depending on the type of cancer and stage of cancer, there are different treatment options available for people diagnosed with cancer. 

Did you know? More than 66% of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia will survive more than five years after diagnosis.

Treatment plans may involve surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. The aim of a treatment plan is to kill cancerous cells to prevent them from multiplying and spreading to other parts of the body. 

If cancer has progressed to a stage where it is not possible to remove, other treatment plans will aim to control the growth and spread and assist the body’s immune system in fighting cancer. 

4 tips to reduce your risk of cancer 

1. Identify the risk factors: 

Understanding the various factors that can increase the chances of developing cancer is an effective way of minimising the risks of developing cancer. 

Risk factors can include lifestyle or environmental decisions that can be modified within an individual’s control. Identifying a risk factor is not a cure or full proof preventative measure, however, as individuals may have more than one risk factor and not develop cancer, while others who have cancer may not have any known risk factors. 

Did you know? An individual’s risk of cancer can increase with age, with people over 60 years more than four times as likely to develop cancer as those under 60. Learning more about the risk factors can help people of all ages prevent, detect and manage cancer. 

Medical research relating to cancer continues to advance. However, there are some known lifestyle and environmental factors that can reduce an individual’s risk of developing cancer. 

Some of these factors include: 

  • Tobacco and alcohol intake: Smoking has been linked to various cancers. Exposure to tobacco by inhaling secondhand smoke or smoking can drastically increase an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer, a common form of cancer in Australia. Eliminating exposure to tobacco can help reduce risks in preventing cancer. 
  • Alcohol and processed meats: Diets that have a high intake of processed meats, alcohol or food with high fat content can contribute to the overall decline in health. Consuming alcohol regularly can also increase the risk of cancer. It’s important to maintain healthy weight levels, include regular exercise in your routine and reduce alcohol intake to decrease the risk of developing various types of cancer. 
  • Exposure to harmful agents: Certain professions, workplaces or living arrangements can expose people to harmful agents such as chemicals, metals or forms of radiation that can increase an individual’s exposure to cancer-causing substances. Reduce exposure to harmful agents to maintain overall health and reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Viral infections: Certain risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex with multiple partners or sharing needles, can increase an individual’s chance of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. People with HIV, HPV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C can be at greater risk of cervical cancer, liver cancer and more. 

2. Conduct tests and screening: 

Early detection is vital for people with cancer. Regular health examinations and screening programs can help detect cancer cells early on, preventing the risk of cancer spreading throughout the body and ensuring treatment plans are more effective. 

Increased awareness of cancer research and accessibility of health facilities across Australia has made it easier than ever for individuals of all ages to access life-saving screening programs. 

Early detection can give individuals the best chance at recovery and remains one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of cancer. 

National screening programs for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer are available in Australia. It’s highly recommended that:

  • Women aged 35-74 years should have a cervical screening test every two to five years to check for cervical cancer. 
  • Women over 40 should access a mammography screening to check for breast cancer every two years. Regular mammograms are recommended between 50-74 years. 
  • People between 50-74 years should regularly undergo a free National Bowel Screening Program to detect bowel cancer. 
  • Women should also engage in regular self-examination to detect any lumps, discolouration or changes in the breasts.  

For any questions on screening programs, consult a healthcare provider to learn the most effective and relevant cancer screening schedule for you.

3. Learn about family history

Cancer can affect anyone – only a small percentage of cancers are developed as a result of a faulty gene that is hereditary. In some families, a certain number of blood-related relatives can develop a similar type of cancer, such as breast cancer or bowel cancer. 

If a family member has a history of cancer, it does not guarantee that another family member will also develop the same type of cancer. However, it is not uncommon for someone diagnosed with cancer to also share a family member who has or has had cancer. Families often share similar lifestyle habits or environments, meaning family members can be exposed to the same risk factors. It can be helpful to identify if there are any blood-related relatives with a history of cancer, and more knowledge of an individual’s family history and shared environmental factors can help identify different risk factors. 

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Ongoing research emphasises the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle can look varied for each person but should incorporate regular physical activity, a balanced nutritional diet and reduced intake of tobacco and alcohol.

Prioritising a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and healthy food choices can play a significant role in reducing an individual’s risk of cancer but also reducing the risk of developing other diseases beyond cancer, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more.

Developing a healthy lifestyle can look different for everyone, but here are some practical questions to ask yourself: 

  • Am I eating a balanced diet? While there is no one food that can prevent or cure cancer, sticking to a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer of the bowel, liver, kidney, lung and stomach, as well as a range of other illnesses.
    Ensuring your daily diet consists of vegetables, fruits, legumes and foods rich in fibre can boost overall health. Additionally, consuming less processed meats, refined sugars and red meat.

    Tip: Aim to eat at least two servings of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. Learn more about dietary guidelines in Australia here

  • Do I engage in regular physical activity? Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, promotes overall well-being and reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer.

    Did you know? Physical inactivity accounts for up to 14% of colon cancers in Australia and is likely to contribute to other cancers too.

    Whether it’s walking more or joining a local gym, it’s best to aim to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine.

    Tip: A simple way to incorporate more physical exercise is to take the stairs instead of the lift, set the alarm every day to exercise or turn your next social gathering into an outdoor walking get-together.


  • Am I sun smart? With one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, it’s essential for Australians to be sun smart to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, an almost entirely preventable disease.
    Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a type of energy produced by the sun. The sun’s UV is the main cause of skin cancer. Reduce the risk of skin cancer by protecting your skin from overexposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays by slipping on sunscreen, wearing protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses, and reducing extended exposure to the sun.
    Learn how you can be sun smart here.

How Homage can help

Living with cancer is physically and mentally challenging. If you or a loved one requires the support of any kind, our team of dedicated team health professionals, including Registered Nurses and support workers, are here to provide essential care during all stages of the journey with cancer. 

Our compassionate and professional team can assist you or a loved one with:

Learn more by completing the details below.

  1. Prostate cancer | Causes, Symptoms & Treatments. (n.d.). Cancer Council. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/types-of-cancer/prostate-cancer
  2. Sun safety. (n.d.). Cancer Council. https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-information/causes-and-prevention/sun-safety
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About the Writer
Shona Yang
Shona Yang is a freelance writer and content creator based in Sydney. She writes for charities, startups and other organisations and is passionate about human rights and minority voices. In between walking her Beagle and drinking coffee, Shona loves to travel.
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