Examine Yourself: Open your eyes to cancer.
It could save your life.

In Ireland, more and more people are surviving cancer.

Forty years ago, just three out of ten Irish people survived their cancer diagnosis. Today, six out of ten people do.

However, we still have 40,000 new cases of cancer or related tumours being diagnosed each year.

That is 40,000 people, 40,000, families, 40,000 homes, getting the news that no one wants to get.

Every person who gets a cancer diagnosis is a story in itself and unfortunately there are too many of them around Ireland.

With cancer, the most important thing we can do as individuals is to take steps to reduce our risk and be vigilant about the early signs and symptoms.

Spotting cancer early can often mean the difference between life and death.

The real difficulty with diagnosing cancer early is that cancer can cause almost any sign or symptom and many cancers have no obvious symptoms at all at an early stage.

Often the initial warning signs are put down to getting older or to another health condition.

It is important to know your body and to tell your doctor if you notice a change which isn’t normal for you.

There are three main changes to look for. Unexplained changes such as a lump or swelling, bleeding that is not normal for you, unexplained weight loss or pain that doesn’t go away.

People should also look out for persistent changes, like a cough, a sore that doesn’t heal, bloating, mouth ulcers or difficulty swallowing.

Finally, unusual changes should be monitored such as changes in bowel movements, a change in a mole or changes in your breasts.

If you experience any of these things, they should be followed up on with a doctor. To give yourself the best chance, it is vital that cancer is spotted early, and is treated.

In terms of reducing our risk of cancer, about four in ten cancers are attributed to five lifestyle factors - tobacco, diet, overweight/obesity, alcohol and low physical activity - meaning that 40% of cancers are preventable.

There is a growing awareness of health and wellbeing in Ireland and many people now are prepared to make changes to significantly reduce their risk of cancer.

The number one thing people can do to improve their health and lower their risk of cancer is to quit smoking. Three in every ten cancers are caused by smoking and we would urge all smokers to make quitting their number one goal.

Over 150,000 smokers successfully quit smoking in the last year which is really positive, and we need to keep those smoking rates going down.

Another way people can reduce their risk is by getting physically active. At the Irish Cancer Society, we would advise people to limit their time sitting and aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Regular physical activity helps to protect against some types of cancer coming back and other types of cancer developing.

There is clear evidence to tell us that physical activity and exercise can reduce your risk of breast, bowel and womb cancer. It may also help prevent lung cancer.

There are also many other benefits to being active. Physical activity helps to reduce the symptoms of fatigue, the side-effects of cancer treatments, and improves your overall wellbeing and heart health.

Being active and having a healthy diet also contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, which after not smoking, is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. It is really important we do all we can to maintain a healthy weight to lower the risk of cancer.

There is also a very real link between alcohol and cancer, with alcohol being directly linked to seven types of cancer. About 900 cancers and 500 cancer deaths are attributed to alcohol every year so I would urge people to be aware of how much they drink and limit their intake as much as possible.

Two major steps that both men and women can take in reducing their risk of cancer, and of ensuring anything is picked up early, is by going for screening when called and getting vaccinated.

In Ireland we have three screening programmes – BreastCheck, BowelScreen and CervicalCheck, as well as a HPV vaccination programme for both boys and girls in secondary schools.

For anyone that is worried about cancer, the Irish Cancer Society has a number of dedicated support services. Our Cancer Nurseline is staffed by trained cancer nurses and can be reached on Freephone 1800 200 700. We also have a network of 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals around the country. For more information, log on to www.cancer.ie

We all have a role to play in our health, so we are delighted to support the Irish Examiner’s Cancer Awareness Week and this immersive read which has some fantastic information on reducing risk and early detection.

I would urge people to have a read through, and share this information with their family and friends. We can all make small changes that could make a massive difference in our lives.

- Kevin O’Hagan
Cancer Prevention Manager
Irish Cancer Society

A. How to spot cancer earlier and what to do?

B. Different types of cancers, the warning signs and how to reduce risk.

C. Your Guide to avoiding cancer

How to spot cancer earlier and what to do?

You are more likely to survive cancer if you spot it at an early stage.

Take time today to check your body for changes that could be cancer.

Talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.

The main changes to look for include changes that are:

Unexplained changes

  • A lump or swelling
    Make sure to check your whole body, not just your testicles or breasts.
  • Bleeding that is not normal for you
    Coughing up blood or noticing it in your urine or bowel motion is not normal. Neither is bleeding from your vagina between periods, after sex or after the menopause.
  • Weight loss
    It is normal to see small weight changes over time. But a big weight loss, not related to dieting, maybe a sign of something more serious.
  • Pain that does not go away
    If you feel pain for more than four weeks that you cannot explain, talk to your doctor about it.

Persistent changes

  • A cough, changes in your voice or feeling short of breath.
    Speak to your doctor if you have any of these problems for more than three weeks, especially if you are a smoker or ex-smoker.
  • A sore that does not heal.
    If a spot, wart or sore does not heal in a few weeks, get it checked by your doctor, even if it is painless.
  • Difficulty swallowing, indigestion or heartburn.
    It is not normal to have indigestion or heartburn that happens a lot or is very painful. Difficulty swallowing is not normal either. Get it checked by your doctor.
  • Bloating.
    If bloating does not go away within a few weeks, talk to your doctor about it.
  • Mouth or tongue ulcer.
    Having a mouth or tongue ulcer for three weeks or more is not normal and needs to be checked by your doctor or dentist.

Unusual changes

  • A change in your bowel or bladder habits.
    If you have constipation, diarrhoea or problems passing urine for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor.
  • A new mole or change to an existing mole.
    Get into the habit of checking your skin every month for new moles. Also watch for changes in colour, shape and size of existing moles.
  • Any change in your breast.
    Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts for changes in the shape, size, nipples and skin. Also watch for pain in one breast.

If you notice any other unusual change in how your body works, talk to your doctor.

The chances are it will not be cancer. But getting it checked is not wasting anyone’s time. It could save your life.

Check yourself

Check yourself regularly so that you’re more likely to notice any changes.

Get screened

Screening means testing for cancer when you have no symptoms.

Screening is a great way to spot cancer early and give yourself the best chance of getting cured.

Free screening for bowel cancer (BowelScreen) is available for men (and women) aged 60–69.

Worried? What can you do?

Don’t ignore problems or warning signs If you have any changes in your body that are unusual for you or you’re worried, don’t ignore it.

Call your doctor and make an appointment, even if you feel OK.

Most cancers can be successfully treated if they’re caught early enough.

Putting off going to the doctor could make cancer more difficult or even impossible to treat.

Don’t panic

Remember, your doctor has seen it all before, and probably much worse!

There’s no need to be embarrassed.

Doctors won’t do any tests or examinations without asking you first, and explaining what they are doing and why. Blood tests or the prostate exam might be a bit uncomfortable, but you can handle it – it’s better than letting cancer go undetected.

Different types of cancers, the warning signs and how to reduce risk

1. Prostate Cancer

Prostate - signs / reducing risk

Did you know?

Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you get older. Most men with the disease are over 50. If your brother or father has had prostate cancer, your risk is also higher.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer happens when the normal cells in the prostate gland change and grow to form a mass of cells called a tumour. These cancer cells can affect how the prostate works.

Prostate cancer cells may not grow at all or else grow slowly during a man’s lifetime. Many men never develop problems or symptoms from their prostate cancer.

In some, prostate cancer grows more quickly and needs treatment to prevent it spreading outside of the prostate gland.

In most cases prostate cancer can be cured or kept under control.

Prostate cancer most often occurs in men in their fifties and onwards. It can occur on rare occasions in men in their late forties.

The risk of developing prostate cancer rises with age.

Early prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is most often diagnosed in the early stages, before it has begun to spread beyond the prostate gland.

Early prostate cancer is also called localised prostate cancer. This means it is confined to the prostate gland only. It has not spread outside of the prostate gland.

Often it is so small it cannot be felt by the doctor on examination of your back passage and it may have no symptoms. Your doctor may suspect prostate cancer after doing a PSA blood test.

There are several treatment options available to treat early prostate cancer. Most of these treatments aim to cure the cancer.

Sometimes a doctor may suggest having no treatment straight away. Instead he or she will monitor the cancer regularly to see if treatment becomes necessary. This is called active surveillance.

Warning signs

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Needing to rush to the toilet
  • Stopping and starting while passing urine, or a weak flow
  • Feeling like you are not emptying your bladder fully
  • Blood in your urine
  • Pain when passing urine

Get the tools to reduce your prostate cancer risk

Be active in everyday life

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

Be a healthy weight

As the amount of fat in the body increases, so does your chance of cancer.

Have a healthy diet

Eat fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses.

Limit foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Avoid processed meat and limit red meat.

Get checked out

If you are over 50, you should see your doctor every year for a check-up.

If you have a family history of prostate cancer you should have regular check-ups from the age of 40.

A check-up should include the following tests:

  • Digital rectal examination. Your doctor will put a gloved finger into your rectum (back passage) to see if the prostate gland is enlarged or abnormal.
  • PSA blood test. This test measures the level of a substance called PSA (prostate specific antigen) in the blood. Men with prostate cancer can have a raised level of PSA.

2. Testicular cancer

Doctor’s orders - Play with your balls

Did you know?

Testicular cancer is more common in men who were born with a testicle that did not come down into the scrotum (undescended testicle).

Most testicular cancers are germ cell tumours. Germ cells are the special cells that are needed for reproduction.

There are two main types of testicular cancer: seminoma and non-seminoma.

Seminomas: These usually develop between the ages of 30 and 50.

One in every three testicular cancers is a seminoma. Seminomas grow slowly and respond very well to treatment.

Non-seminomas: These develop between the ages of 15 and the early 40s. They tend to grow and spread faster than seminomas.

They include teratomas, embryonal cancers and mixed germ-cell tumours. Sometimes a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) can occur in the testicle. This is treated separately as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Other rare types of testicular tumours are Leydig and Sertoli cell tumours. These tumours can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

If the tumour is benign, surgery to remove the testicle (orchidectomy) may be the only treatment you need.

If they are malignant, your doctor might recommend surgery to the lymph nodes. This is called a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection.

Testicular cancer is quite rare, but it is the most common cancer found in young men aged between 15 and 34 years.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

Warning signs

  • A painless lump or swelling in your testicle
  • Pain, discomfort or heaviness in your testicle or scrotum
  • Pain or a dull ache in your groin or tummy
  • A change in the way your testicle feels

Reduce your testicular cancer risk

Checking yourself at least once a month is the best way to avoid problems.

Here’s how:

  • Hold your scrotum in your hands.
  • Use the fingers and thumbs of both hands to examine your testicles.
  • Gently feel each testicle, one at a time, for any lumps or any change in size or weight. It’s common for one testicle to be slightly larger or hang lower than the other. The testicle itself should be smooth, with no lumps or swellings. It’s normal to feel a soft tube at the top and back of the testicle. This is the sperm collecting tube (epididymis).

3. Bowel cancer

Did you know?

Bowel cancer mainly affects people over the age of 50.

If someone in your immediate family has had bowel cancer, your risk is also higher.

What is the bowel?

The bowel is part of your digestive system. It is made up of two parts, the small bowel and the large bowel.

The large bowel can be further divided into the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum and anus.

When you swallow food, it goes from the gullet (oesophagus) to the stomach and into the small bowel.

Going through the small bowel, it is digested and nutrients are taken into the body. In the large bowel, water is absorbed from digested food.

The waste matter that is left is stored in the rectum (back passage) until ready to pass out of the body through the anus. This waste material is known as faeces or stools.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer happens when cells in the bowel change and start to grow quickly.

They can form a tumour. A malignant tumour is also known as cancer. If a malignant tumour is not treated, it will affect how the bowel works. Most bowel cancers occur in the large bowel. Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer or cancer of the colon and rectum.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Warning signs

  • A lasting change in your bowel habit – going more often, diarrhoea or constipation
  • Blood in your poo or bleeding from your back passage (bottom)
  • Pain or discomfort in your tummy area or back passage
  • Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy
  • A lump in your tummy area or rectum (back passage)
  • Feeling you have not emptied your bowel fully after using the toilet
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling tired or breathless

Reduce your bowel cancer risk

Have a healthy diet

Avoid processed meat and limit red meat. Eat fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. Limit foods high in sugar, salt and fat.

Be active in everyday life

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day

Be a healthy weight

As the amount of fat in the body increases, so does your chance of cancer

Avoid alcohol

Cutting back or avoiding alcohol will reduce your cancer risk

Don’t smoke

Cut out the cigarettes and cut your cancer risk

Get screened

Testing for bowel cancer when you have no symptoms is called screening.

The national bowel screening programme, BowelScreen, sends a free test kit to people aged 60–69 every two years.

You send back a sample of your faeces (poo). The sample is tested for traces of blood.

If there is blood in your faeces it doesn’t mean that you have cancer, but you may be advised to have more tests.

For more information see www.bowelscreen.ie

4. Mouth, neck and head cancers

Did you know?

If you drink alcohol and smoke, your risk of mouth, head and neck cancers is even higher

Cancer can develop in any tissue or organ in the mouth, head or neck.

As they grow, the cancer cells can affect how the organ or tissue normally works.

The areas where mouth, head and neck cancers develop are:

Oral cancers can occur in the lips, the tongue, the gums, the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (the hard palate) and the floor of the mouth (under the tongue).

Oropharyngeal cancers can occur in the soft part of the roof of the mouth, the back and side walls of the throat and the base of the tongue.

Cancer of the nose can occur in the nasopharynx (the area where the throat joins the nose), the nostril or the lining of the nose. Cancer can also develop in the bones around the face or in the sinuses.

Cancer of the ear can occur in and around the ear but is very unusual.

Cancer of the eye can occur but is very rare.

Mouth, head and neck cancers cover a wide range of different diseases. They are named after the type of cell where the cancer first starts to grow.

  • Squamous cell: cancers start in the lining of the mouth, nose, throat, tongue or ear.
  • Lymphomas: begin in the cells of the lymphatic system and travel to areas of the mouth, head and neck.

    The lymphatic system is part of the body´s natural defence system. It contains lymph glands or nodes that are found around the body, including the neck.

    They contain white blood cells that become swollen during an infection. If the swelling does not go away, it may be due to cancer.

  • Sarcomas: are tumours of soft tissue and occur in the muscle, cartilage and blood vessels around the mouth, head and neck.
  • Melanomas: are cancer cells that start to grow in the cells that give colour to the skin and eye.

Most mouth, head and neck cancers are squamous cell cancers.

What are the symptoms of mouth, head and neck cancers?

Warning signs

  • A sore or ulcer that does not heal within three weeks
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing or swallowing
  • A sore throat that won’t go away
  • Difficulty speaking, or having a hoarse voice
  • An unexplained loose tooth
  • A swelling or lump in the mouth or neck
  • Pain in the face or jaw
  • Earache, ringing in the ear or hearing problems
  • Numbness of the tongue or face
  • Blocked or bleeding nose
  • Swelling around your face and neck
  • Difficulty swallowing

Reduce your risk

By far the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of mouth, head and neck cancers is to stop smoking. Your risk is increased by all types of tobacco, like:

  • Cigarettes
  • Pipes
  • Cigars
  • ‘Roll-ups’
  • Low-tar cigarettes

You should also:

  • Stay within low-risk alcohol guidelines
  • Check your mouth and visit your dentist regularly

5. Lung Cancer

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is when normal cells in your lung grow in an abnormal way to form a mass of cells called a tumour.

The lungs are a pair of organs found in your chest.

Your lungs form part of the respiratory system in your body, which allows you to breathe.

What increases my risk of lung cancer?

Smoking: Smoking causes nearly 9 in every 10 lung cancers.

The longer you have smoked, the greater the risk. Smoking a large number of cigarettes and breathing in other people’s smoke also increase your risk.

Family history: Having a parent, brother or sister with lung cancer.

Chemicals: Being exposed to certain chemicals such as asbestos, metal dust, paints and diesel exhaust.

Radon gas: Being exposed to radon gas, in areas where levels are high.

Risk factors increase your chance of getting lung cancer.

Having a risk factor doesn’t mean you will get lung cancer. Sometimes people with no risk factors may get the disease.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

  • Difficulty breathing, or wheezing
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or a change in a long-term cough
  • Repeated chest infections that won’t go away, even after antibiotics
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • A hoarse voice
  • Coughing up blood-stained phlegm
  • Pain in your chest, especially when you cough or breathe in
  • Loss of appetite / weight loss
  • Swelling around your face and neck
  • Difficulty swallowing.

These symptoms can be caused by other things, but always get them checked out.

Know the facts

  • About 2,500 Irish people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year.
  • In recent years cases of lung cancer have been declining among men but the disease is increasing among women.
  • The majority of people who get lung cancer are over the age of 50.
  • More than eight out of every ten lung cancer cases are due to smoking.
  • About one in ten people who get lung cancer have never smoked - exposure to certain substances such as radon gas and asbestos increase lung cancer risk.
  • More people die from lung cancer in Ireland than any other type of cancer.
  • Lung cancer in Irish women is increasing each year because of smoking


Smoking harms your health, but how? Take a closer look at the risks associated with smoking.


Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer. (Find out more about lung cancer)

It is also a contributory risk factor in a number of other cancers.

Heart disease

Your heart is your body’s engine, pumping blood to all vital organs. Smoking damages that engine by:

  • Increasing your heart-rate and therefore, increasing your requirement for oxygen in the blood.
  • Introducing carbon monoxide into the blood. This may contribute to the development of coronary heart disease and possible heart attacks.
  • Increasing the risk of blood clot.
  • Hardening and narrowing of the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.


Smokers are more likely to have a stroke (blockage of blood to the brain or bleed in the brain) than non-smokers. Strokes are a major cause of death and prolonged disability.

Bronchitis and emphysema

Smoking can cause or worsen these serious respiratory conditions. Severe emphysema causes breathlessness, which can be made worse by infections.

Fertility levels and birth problems

Smoking can reduce fertility, and smoking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and illness in early infancy.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is a combination of:

  • mainstream smoke – the smoke that is inhaled and then breathed out by the smoker
  • sidestream smoke – the smoke that comes from the burning end of the cigarette and is far more dangerous than the mainstream smoke inhaled by the smoker as it contains higher concentrations of harmful chemicals

Only a small amount (15%) of smoke from a cigarette is inhaled by the smoker; the rest of it goes directly into the air.

What if I live with a smoker?

Adults and children who live in a smoky home are at greater risk of the following:

  • coughing and wheezing
  • chest infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis)
  • severe asthma
  • middle ear infections and glue ear (may cause partial deafness)
  • cot death (sudden infant death syndrome)
  • absence from school due to illness

The risk of these problems is greatly reduced as soon as the individual is no longer breathing in secondhand smoke.

Risks to children

Smoking in the presence of young children can cause them serious illness and may make them more likely to suffer health problems in later life.

Why are children who share a home with smokers at risk?

  • Children are more at risk because their immune systems, which protect them from getting sick, are not fully developed
  • It is more difficult for young children to avoid or complain about secondhand smoke

Children depend on adults to make sure their air is smoke-free.

What can I do to protect my children from secondhand smoke?

As a parent, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for the health of your child.

Pregnancy and secondhand smoke

Smoking in the presence of a pregnant woman may endanger the health of the fetus (unborn baby) and mother.

If you smoke when pregnant there is an increased risk of harm to the unborn baby

  • Smoking when you are pregnant increases the risk of cot death, miscarriage and other pregnancy complications
  • Smoking around an infant increases the risk of cot death

If you are a smoker

Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do for your own health.

But if you are not ready to quit smoking you can still protect your family and friends from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

  • Never smoke around your children
  • Always try to smoke outdoors and away from children
  • Make your car smoke-free; smoking is more concentrated in a small space, which makes it more harmful
  • Try and make you home smoke-free. Start by making the bedrooms smoke-free, then try to make the family rooms smoke-free

If you are not a smoker

  • Ask your smoking visitors or family members not to smoke around yourself or your children and to smoke outdoors
  • If someone minds your children in their own home, ask them to keep it smoke-free or not to smoke around your children

6. Skin cancer

Did you know?

Your risk of skin cancer is higher if you have: Pale or freckled skin which burns easily Red or fair hair and blue, green or grey eyes A lot of moles or unusual moles.

Your risk of skin cancer is higher if you have: Pale or freckled skin which burns easily Red or fair hair and blue, green or grey eyes A lot of moles or unusual moles.

Reduce your skin cancer risk

Check your skin

Look for any skin changes or unusual moles.

Check your whole body once a month, including your feet, between your toes and under your arms.

Use a hand mirror to check your scalp and the back of your body.

Your guide to avoiding cancer

Watch your weight

Being overweight or obese clearly increases your risk of the following cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Womb cancer

There is also growing evidence that being overweight could increase the risk of many other cancers, including:

  • Thyroid cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Leukaemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Ovarian cancer (before the menopause)

Overweight and obesity levels have risen dramatically over the last 50 years. Most adults in Ireland now weigh more than they should.

  • Nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of all adults are overweight or obese
  • Nearly one quarter (23 per cent) of all adults are obese
  • Men are more likely to be overweight than women, but obesity rates are about the same

Most worrying is that a quarter of 5-12 year olds are overweight or obese. Obesity in Irish children is higher than most other northern European countries, but similar to Britain.

As a nation, we are getting fatter. And being overweight does not just increase your risk of cancer.

It also increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke.

How does being overweight increase my cancer risk?

Research has shown that the most likely cause is that fat cells release hormones that are linked with a higher risk of cancer. For example:

  • Fat cells in your body make the hormone oestrogen and higher levels of oestrogen increase the risk of breast cancer (in women who have had the menopause) and womb cancer.
  • Being overweight also increases the level of the hormone insulin in your body, which can encourage the growth of cancer cells. Higher levels of insulin are a common feature of many cancers, including bowel, kidney and pancreatic cancers.

In summary, excess body fat is not harmless extra ‘padding’. It is active tissue which produces hormones that increase your risk of cancer.

Being overweight is also associated with:

  • gastric acid reflux, where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the oesophagus. This damages the lining of the oesophagus and increases your risk of oesophageal cancer
  • gallstones, which increase your risk of gallbladder cancer.

Overweight people are also more likely to have a poor diet and be inactive, two other risk factors for cancer.

Waist size matter

If you have an apple-shaped body, with fat stored around your waist, you have a higher chance of getting cancer than if you are pear shaped, where fat is stored at your hips and thighs.

Simply put, extra fat stored around your waist puts you at greater risk.

This is because fat cells in the upper part of the body appear to have different qualities from those found in the lower parts.

Are you a healthy weight?

There are two ways of finding out if you are a healthy weight:

  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Waistline measurement

Body mass index (BMI)

Remember, though, BMI is not always an accurate measure if you are an athlete, pregnant or very short in height.

Waistline measurement

To measure your waistline:

  • Place a tape measure around your waist at the narrowest point between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hip bone.
  • At this point, measure around your waist. Make sure the tape measure is snug but not marking your skin.
  • Take the measurement at the end of your normal breath.

You are at an increased risk of cancer if:

  • your waistline is greater than 94 cm or 37 inches for men
  • your waistline is greater than 81cm or 32 inches for women.

Take control

Weight gain happens when you take in more energy than you use up. Losing weight is a gradual process which takes time. There are no quick fixes.

Being a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and how active you are.

To lose weight permanently, you will need to change the way you think about food and physical activity for good. Be realistic.

For most people who are overweight, losing one or two pounds a week is excellent progress. Some weeks will be more difficult than others, the key is to keep going.

Eating for health and being active go hand-in-hand if you want to take control of your weight and reduce your risk of cancer.

The Irish Cancer Society also has developed this page detailing 10 healthy weight habits to help you lose weight and keep your weight in check.

Alcohol - a quick guide

Alcohol is a carcinogen - that means it can cause cancer.

The facts

Alcohol is a risk factor for 8 types of cancer - breast, mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, bowel, liver and pancreas.

It’s not just those with a ‘drinking problem’ who are affected

Even 1 drink a day can increase your risk of cancer

There is no safe amount of alcohol. But the less you drink, the lower the risk

Did you know?

There are many benefits to cutting down.

You will:

  • Be able to better manage your weight
  • Have healthier skin
  • Sleep better
  • Have more money
  • Have more energy
  • Have better mental health
  • Have a lower risk of stroke or heart disease

Why should women drink less than men?

Women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat and less fluid in their bodies than men.

That means that alcohol is less diluted in women’s bodies.

It takes less alcohol for us to feel the effects and alcohol stays in the body longer.

How to reduce risk

Drink less

There is no safe amount of alcohol, but the less you drink, the lower your risk. Even 1 drink a day can increase your risk of some cancers.

Drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day if you are a man, with 2 or 3 alcohol-free days.

Know how much you’re drinking

Most people drink more than they think.

Count your standard drinks for a week to find out. Remember, it’s how much you drink that matters.

All types of alcohol increase the risk of cancer.

Measure your drinks at home

It’s easy to pour a double or a treble measure of spirits without realising, and a big wine glass can hold 2 or 3 standard drinks.

Drink some non-alcoholic drinks Try switching to non-alcoholic drinks as the evening goes on. Or have a few glasses of water in between.

Dilute your alcohol

Use more mixer in your drink or go for low-alcohol beer or wines.

Try to quit smoking

If you drink and smoke, your risk of cancer is even higher. See page 9 for tips on quitting smoking

A standard drink is:

Half pint of stout, larger, cider

A single measure of spirits

A small glass of wine

How to eat well and be healthy

Six tips for eating well

1. Fruit and vegetables

Eat 7 portions of fruit, vegetables and salad every day.

Have some fruit for breakfast, add salad to your sandwiches and have more vegetables with you dinner.

2. Fill up on fibre

Go for high fibre foods like wholegrain bread, fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, brown rice and oats.

3. Limit red and processed meats

Do not eat more than 500g of cooked lean red meat in a week.

This is roughly the same as 800g of raw meat.

Limit or cut out processed meats like ham, rashers and salami.

4. Eat very little fat

Avoid butter, oil, fatty meat and fried food.

Go for lean meat and low-fat options.

Cook healthier by steaming, baking and grilling.

5. Avoid high calorie foods

Cut down on fizzy drinks, fast food, sweets and cakes.

6. Eat less salt

Try to avoid pre-packed and processed meats. Go for fresh ingredients that you cook for yourself.

Check the labels for salt (sodium) content - even foods like cornflakes can have salt added.

Avoid adding salt when cooking or when eating your foods.

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