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. 

If you wish to order printed resources please visit and choose 'cancer' on the drop down menu. 


The HSE National Cancer Control Programme provide a free e-learning programme on ‘Reducing Cancer Risk’ for health and social care professionals. The programme consists of 11 short course modules on modifiable cancer risk reduction factors. The modules take 10-15mins to complete and cover

  • How the modifiable risk factor affects cancer risk
  • What cancers are related to the risk factor
  • Cancer risk reduction advice
  • Signposts to supports and further trusted sources of information.

Across 2023 modules will be published on, including modules on tobacco, alcohol, skin protection, body weight, eating for health, physical activity, radon, screening, HRT, breastfeeding, vaccines, workplace carcinogens.

Visit and search for ‘Reducing Cancer Risk’ to access the modules.

National Survey on Cancer Awareness and Attitudes

The HSE National Cancer Control Programme published the first National Survey on Cancer Awareness and Attitudes, September 2022. The research survey was conducted amongst a representative sample of 2,874 adults aged 18 and over living in Ireland. Findings report there is strong consensus on the potential for certain risk behaviours to cause cancer, especially those related to tobacco smoking and sun exposure. There are lower levels of recognition of cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption, dietary factors, physical activity, body weight, breast feeding, and factors related to ‘health conditions, medicines and treatment’. The data can  inform development of effective cancer prevention initiatives and monitor the impact of these initiatives. Download the report or watch a presentation on findings by clicking on the links below

Reducing risk of cancer information and resources

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). We can all take action to reduce our risk of cancer. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


Tobacco contains chemicals that increase the risk of at least 15 types of cancer. Tobacco products include cigarettes, roll your own, chewing tobacco, pipes or cigars.  The best form of defence is not to start smoking. Quitting tobacco products reduces your cancer risk. For help quitting, visit the HSE Stop Smoking service or call 1800 201 203. Second hand tobacco smoke increases cancer risk. Make your home, car and workplace smoke free. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below.

Body Weight

Higher body weight can affect your hormone levels and your immune system, increasing risk of cancer. You can reduce risk of cancer by keeping weight within a healthy range.  Eating a healthy balanced diet, being physically active, getting enough sleep and taking care of your mental health can all help to maintain a healthy body weight throughout life.  Support options are available to those living with overweight or
obesity. Ask your GP for information. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Physical Activity 

Physical activity can reduce your risk of cancer by promoting healthy hormone and insulin levels, reducing inflammation and helping maintain a healthy body weight. Any amount of activity is better than none.  Adults should try to aim for at least
– 150 minutes of moderate physical activity across each week(moderate physical activity makes you a little out of breath, but you can talk comfortably)
– 75 minutes of vigorous activity across each week (vigorous activities will raise your heart rate, make you sweat and feel out of breath)
– muscle strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your cancer risk. Your overall diet is more important than focusing on individual foods. Eat foods high in fibre such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses. Limit foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Avoid processed meat and limit red meat, as these have been linked to bowel cancer. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


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

Skin Protection

To reduce your risk of skin cancer protect your skin from the sun and never use sunbeds. Follow the Healthy Ireland SunSmart steps, especially from April to September in Ireland, even when it is 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.
Visit for more information. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


Radon is a radioactive gas found in the environment. It has no colour, taste or smell. It can increase the risk of lung cancer in people exposed to high levels of radon over long periods of time. The risk from radon is even higher for smokers, so it is even more important to think about quitting smoking.  For more information on how to check radon levels in your home or workplace, and how to reduce them, visit Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of breast cancer by lowering certain hormones in the body and may protect cells in the breast from changes.  The longer a women has breastfed over the course of her life, the more the woman is protected.  If you can, consider breastfeeding. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


Vaccinations can protect against some kinds of cancer.   The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against HPV. HPV can cause a range of cancers including cervical, penis, anal, mouth and throat cancer. The HPV vaccine is offered to all boys and girls aged 12 to 13 in secondary school when the HPV vaccine is most effective. It is also offered to men who have sex with men (MSM) and others who are at increased risk of exposure to HPV.
Hepatitis B vaccine protects against liver cancer. It is offered to all babies in Ireland at 2, 4 and 6 months of age as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule. Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 


Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP)
The combined OCP can increase the risk of breast and cervical  cancer, but can decrease risk of ovarian and womb cancer. Each person’s risk will be different. Talk to your GP about what is right for you.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Menopausal HRT can increase risk of ovarian, breast, womb  and ovarian cancer but the increased risk is small. The risk from HRT depends on many different things. This includes the type of HRT, when people start taking it, how long they take it for, age, and general health. For some, the benefits of taking HRT outweigh the risks. Everyone is different. Talk to your GP about your options.


Some workplaces involve exposure to cancer-causing substances such benzene, silica dust, asbestos and wood dust. Follow your workplace safety risk assessment control measures to reduce your exposure to cancer-causing substances in your workplace. If you work outdoors make sure you protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Visit and for more information.
 Resources for your use can be downloaded from the links below. 

Cancer Screening

Consider taking part in organised population screening programmes for:
– Breast cancer (women aged 50-69 years). Visit
– Cervical cancer (women and people with a cervix aged 25-65 years). Visit
– Bowel cancer (people aged 60-69 years). Visit

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