European Week Against Cancer
Start today by taking twelve steps to reduce your cancer risk!
During the European Week against Cancer, which takes place every year at the end of May, it is time to remind us all that many cancers can be prevented by following the recommendations set out in the European Code Against Cancer.
Cancer experts have estimated that almost half of all deaths due to cancer in Europe could be avoided if everyone followed the Code’s recommendations.
Over the years, the Code has been revised on a regular basis to take account of the latest scientific knowledge. Under Questions and Answers additional information is provided about each recommendation and related aspects of cancer prevention. The Code explains the cancer risk addressed and provides more details how we can protect ourselves and our families against cancer.
In addition to the healthy lifestyles recommendations such as not smoking, being physically active and eating healthy diets, the Code makes specific recommendations for women: to take part in organised screening programmes for the prevention of breast and cervical cancer and in the case of cervical prevention also being vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Breast Cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among women worldwide. In 2009, the standardised death rate of breast cancer for the EU-27 stood at 23.1 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants The risk of breast cancer increases with age, family cancer history, unusual hormonal and reproductive factors, unhealthy life style and many other factors i.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of forty-four, and it is the second most common female cancer in Europe. In the EU, ca. 34,000 women develop cervical cancer annually (Ferlay et al 2013), with higher rates in new Member States.ii
HPV Vaccination in young girls can prevent Cervical Cancer from starting in the first place. Death from cervical cancer is still high in many of the new EU Member States causing unacceptable inequalities.
All the more reason for European governments to invest in population based Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer screening programmes and for young girls to get vaccinated against HPV. Importantly, women should take part in the offered screening and HPV vaccination programmes.
All of us please read and follow the Code! It could save you or someone in your family or circle of friends from developing cancer.
1 Do not smoke. Do not use any form of tobacco.
2 Make your home smoke free. Support smoke-free policies in your workplace.
3 Take action to be a healthy body weight.
4 Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting.
5 Have a healthy diet:
Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.
Limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat) and avoid sugary drinks.
Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt.
6 If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.
7 Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.
8 In the workplace, protect yourself against cancer-causing substances by following health and safety instructions.
9 Find out if you are exposed to radiation from naturally high radon levels in your home. Take action to reduce high radon levels.
10 For women:
Breastfeeding reduces cancer risk. If you can breastfeed your baby.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of certain cancers. Limit use of HRT.
11 Ensure your children take part in vaccination programmes for: Hepatitis B (for newborns), Human papillomavirus (HPV) (for girls).
12 Take part in organised cancer screening programmes for: Bowel cancer (men and women), Breast cancer (women), Cervical cancer (women).
For More information:
European Code against Cancer IARC’s webpages http://www.cancercode.eu
European Institute of Women’s Health Policy Briefs:
Women and Cervical Cancer :https://eurohealth.ie/policy_briefs/
Women and Smoking :https://eurohealth.ie/policy_briefs/
Breast Cancer Policy Brief currently under expert review