Bring a friend to parkrun this World Cancer Day

HSE Media Release: 3 February 2020

Exercise important for cancer prevention and living well with and beyond cancer

Reduces risk of 7 types of common cancers

Improves the health and wellbeing of those living with and beyond cancer

This Saturday (8th February), the Irish Cancer Prevention Network is teaming with parkrun to mark World Cancer Day (4th February) to highlight the positive impact exercise has on reducing cancer and improving the health and wellbeing of those living with and beyond cancer. Parkrun organises free weekly runs around the country and is open to everyone. Find your local park run at

Dr Triona McCarthy, HSE National Cancer Control Programme said:

“Each year approximately 35,000 people in Ireland develop cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Ireland with over 9,000 people dying each year. This means we must identify opportunities to reduce the risk of the disease and support those affected by cancer. Partnering with parkrun on this initiative is a great opportunity to spread the message that physical activity can reduce your risk of cancer and improve quality of life for people living with and beyond cancer. We are hoping that as many people as possible will join us in taking part with a friend or family member this Saturday 8th February.”

There is strong evidence that for all adults, exercise may lower the risk of seven types of common cancer - breast, womb, kidney, bladder, oesophageal, stomach and bowel. Physical activity, particularly after a cancer diagnosis, may improve survival in breast and bowel cancer. Research has also shown that exercising during and after cancer treatment decreases fatigue, anxiety and depression; improves physical function and quality of life, and does not exacerbate lymphedema.*

Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society explains further:

“Staying active can help you lower your risk of many types of cancer. With most adults in Ireland spending over 5 hours on average on a weekday sitting, it is really important we do all we can to encourage people to get active to lower their risk of cancer.  Coming along to parkrun every Saturday is an excellent way of building regular exercise into your life.  World Cancer Day is a great day to get started.”

Caroline Kennedy, a survivor of bowel cancer, will run her 50th parkrun in Templemore, Tipperary, just ahead of World Cancer Day this year. The support and inclusivity at Caroline’s local parkrun have helped improve both her mental and physical health during and beyond her treatment:  

“The benefits of exercise from both a physical and mental health perspective should not be underestimated. Also the encouragement and support from my fellow parkrunners have, in no small way, contributed to my wellbeing during my illness and recovery. Cancer can make you feel as if you’re different from other people – being involved in parkrun helped me feel the same and part of something special.”

Helen Forristal, Director of Nursing, Marie Keating Foundation, echoes Caroline’s sentiments and encourages people to get involved:

“Being a member of the parkrun community is a brilliant way to get active and start the habit of regular exercise. Being active is one of the key ways you can reduce your risk of cancer and one of the five pillars of our Your Health Your Choice campaign. We’re encouraging everyone to bring along a friend and enjoy the run together at this year’s event on February 8th. As part of our work in the Irish Cancer Prevention Network we are proud to support this initiative, encouraging everyone to have a positive influence over their own overall health and start moving this World Cancer Day.”  

Dr Frances Drummond, Research Officer, Breakthrough Cancer Research, said:

“There is a saying, ‘if exercise was a pill, it would be considered a wonder drug’.  Exercise improves physical and mental health and lowers the risk of many cancers.  We are delighted to work with the NCCP and other charities to promote physical activity and participation in parkrun for World Cancer Day. Everyone can make smalls steps toward better health.  The aim of the Irish Cancer Prevention Network is for all of these organisations to work together to provide information and to support people in Ireland by sharing small steps we all can take, which can have a big impact on cancer.”

Matt Shields, Country Manager at parkrun Ireland said:

“At parkrun we are proud to help build awareness and community support for those touched by cancer. We see first-hand the benefits of walking, jogging, running and volunteering on both physical and mental health, and are passionate about spreading this message. This all fits within our mission to create a healthier and happier community.”

The Irish Cancer Prevention Network is a partnership between the HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), Breakthrough Cancer Research, The Marie Keating Foundation and The Irish Cancer Society to collaborate on cancer prevention initiatives in Ireland. The Irish Cancer Prevention Network brings together collaborative working between organisations with the aim to reduce cancer risk for the people of Ireland. Other interested parties are welcome to link with the Network by contacting any of the partner organisations.

Parkrun organises free weekly runs around the country and is open to everyone – please bring a friend to your local parkrun on Saturday 8th February. You can find your local parkrun at



  • National Cancer Registry Ireland. Cancer in Ireland 1994-2017 with estimates for 2017-2019: annual report of the National Cancer Registry [Internet]. Cork: National Cancer Registry; 2019. Available from:
  • Patel et al 2019 ACSM Roundtable Report on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cancer Prevention and Control
  • Campbell et al 2019 Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Consensus Statement from International Multidisciplinary Roundtable.
  • Trinity Exercise Oncology Research Group -
Last updated on: 03 / 02 / 2020