Cancer Prevention

On this page you will learn information on how to reduce your risk of cancer. You will also find resources for your use.

Reducing risk of cancer 

Each individual’s risk of getting cancer is influenced by a wide range of factors. Things that we can’t change (like our age and genetics) and things that we can change (like what we eat, whether we drink alcohol, exercise, and protect our skin from the sun). However, we can all take steps to reduce our risk of cancer. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Smoking

Tobacco contains chemicals that cause cancer.  Tobacco products include cigarettes, roll your own, chewing, pipes or cigars. Quitting tobacco reduces your risk of at least 15 types of cancer, including lung cancer, which is the biggest cause of cancer death in Ireland. For support to quit smoking go to www.quit.ie or call 1800 201 203.  Second hand tobacco smoke increases cancer risk. Make your home and car smoke free. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Body Weight

Too much body weight can affect hormone levels and your immune system, increasing your risk of cancer. Maintain a healthy body weight throughout your lifetime, from childhood to adulthood to reduce your risk of 12 types of cancer. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Physical Activity 

Physically activity reduces risk of bowel, breast and womb cancer.  Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75minutes of vigorous activity a week. Moderate physical activity makes you a little out of breath but you can talk comfortably. Vigorous activities will raise your heart rate and make you sweat and feel out of breath. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Eating for health

The food we eat can reduce cancer risk. Eating fruit, vegetables and wholegrains provide the body with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that protect your body. Red and processed meat contain chemicals that increase risk of bowel cancer. Aim to reduce the amount of red meat you eat as much as possible, to no more than 3 portions per week, and try to avoid processed meat altogether. Coffee may reduce risk of some cancers, including liver cancer. Choose healthy food and avoiding ‘fast-foods, sugary drinks and sweets helps maintain a healthy body weight which decreases risk of cancer. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Alcohol

Alcohol increases the risk of at least 7 types of cancer, including mouth, throat, breast, stomach and liver. When alcohol is broken down in your body, it can damage your body’s cells. You can reduce your risk of cancer if you do not drink alcohol. The less your drink the lower the risk. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Skin Protection

Protect your skin from the sun and never use sunbeds to reduce risk of skin cancer. Follow the Healthy Ireland sunsmart steps, especially from April to September, even when its cloudy. Slip on clothing that covers your skin. Slop on sunscreen, using factor 30+ for adults and 50+ for children. Slap on a wide-brimmed hat. Seek shade and always use a sunshade on a child’s buggy. Slide on sunglasses to protect your eyes. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below or visit www.hse.ie/SunSmart. 

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring gas found in the environment. It can increase risk of lung cancer when it is present in buildings at high levels. If you are a smoker and you live in a high radon area your risk of lung cancer is increased, so it is even more important to think about quitting smoking.  The Environmental Protection Agency website provides information on how to check your home for radon gas levels It also provides advice on how to reduce levels in your home if you need to. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding reduces levels of certain hormones in the body and protects cells in the breast from changes, reducing breast cancer risk. The greater the number of months the greater the protection. If you can, breastfeed your baby. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below

Vaccines

Vaccinations can protect against some kinds of cancer. HPV is a virus that can cause a range of cancers including cervical, penis, anal, mouth and throat cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against the HPV virus. The HPV vaccine is offered to all girls and boys in secondary school to reduce cancer risk. Hepatitis B vaccine protects against liver cancer. It is offered to all newborns in Ireland. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below.

HRT

Certain hormonal medications, including the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase and decrease the risk of cancers for women. Talk to your GP about whether these medications are right for you

Workplace

Some workplaces involve exposure to cancer causing substances, such as arsenic, asbestos, ultraviolet radiation. Follow your workplace health and safety instructions to help reduce the risk of your exposure to cancer-causing substances in your workplace. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below

Cancer Screening

Consider taking part in organised cancer screening programmes for breast cancer (women aged 50-69years), cervical cancer (women and people with a cervix aged between 25-65 years), bowel cancer (people aged 60-69 years).  For more information go to www.screeningservice.ie. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below

National Survey on Cancer Awareness and Attitudes

The HSE NCCP are undertaking a national telephone survey of a random selection of the adult population living in Ireland, to assess current awareness in relation to cancer risk factors and early detection of cancer.  The purpose of the survey is to

  • determine public knowledge/awareness of risk and preventive factors for cancer
  • assess beliefs about cancer
  • assess knowledge of early signs/symptoms of cancer
  • assess health seeking behaviour, including barriers and enablers to seeking medical advice

 Data collection will be conducted January - April 2022 by Ipsos MRBI. For more information read the participant information leaflet by clicking on the link below

National Survey on Cancer Awareness and Attitudes;Participant Information Sheet;

The Irish Cancer Prevention Network  

The Irish Cancer Prevention Network (ICPN) aims to reduce cancer risk for the people of Ireland. The ICPN consists of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme, Breakthrough Cancer Research, the Marie Keating Foundation, the National Screening Service, the Irish Cancer Society, the National Screening Service and the Irish Skin Foundation. The ICPN supports and collaborates cancer risk reduction initiatives.

Irish Cancer Prevention Network Newsletters

For more information e-mail prevention@cancercontrol.ie