How can we prevent non-communicable diseases like cancer?

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) represent one of the main public health challenges today; since they represent more than 70% of the annual deaths in the world. We speak, among others, of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease.

But why are they called noncommunicable diseases?

Non-communicable, or chronic, diseases are long-lasting and generally slow-growing conditions , which have their origin, to a large extent, in our life habits. Thus, health experts point out tobacco consumption, poor diet, lack of physical activity and alcohol consumption as the risk factors that most influence the appearance of this type of disease.

In fact, according to the study ‘Economic and social impact of Cancer in Spain’ , prepared by Oliver Wyman for the Spanish Association Against Cancer, it is estimated that between 30 and 50% of cancer cases can be avoided by following methods of prevention . This includes both the acquisition of healthier lifestyle habits and the correct implementation and participation in screening programs for the population at risk.

This would involve not only preventing new cases of cancer and increasing life expectancy; also reduce public health spending. According to this same report, it is estimated that around 9,000 million euros could be reduced from global cancer costs, which in Spain amount to at least 19,300 million euros .

Therefore, it is essential to work on the prevention of this type of non-communicable diseases such as cancer. Something that from the Spanish Association Against Cancer we have been promoting, along with other entities, through the REDENT prevention network to promote measures that achieve the support of the public powers, such as, for example, the expansion of smoke-free spaces.

Tips to prevent cancer and other non-communicable diseases

As we said, leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the prevention factors. Therefore, if you want to avoid cancer and other non-communicable diseases, start by putting these tips into practice in your daily life:

1. Eat healthy: commitment to a Mediterranean diet

Changes in diet (low intake of fruits and vegetables, high intake of sugar, excess fats, carcinogens, high intake of salt) have greatly increased the rates of overweight and obesity. The latest figures reveal that 39.3 of Spanish adults between 25 and 64 years old are overweight and 21.6% obese. This is summarized in an increase in non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular or cancer.

Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet, based on the Mediterranean diet, is essential to prevent cancer.

2. Do physical exercise every day

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth risk factor in terms of global mortality (6% of registered deaths worldwide). For this reason, the practice of physical exercise is essential throughout life due to its ability to prevent various diseases, including cancer. There is sufficient scientific evidence that shows that a physically active life can protect, fundamentally, against colon and breast cancer . In addition, regular physical activity helps keep weight within proper limits and prevents overweight and obesity.

As for the intensity of the exercise, it must be adapted to each age. For example, between the ages of 18 and 64, it is recommended to dedicate at least 150 minutes a week to moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity , or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity each week, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities .

3. Don’t smoke! One in three cancers is related to tobacco

Tobacco smoke is known to contain more than 4,000 chemicals, of which at least 250 are harmful and more than 50 cause cancer. In fact, tobacco use is linked to up to 15 different cancers .  

4. Zero tolerance for alcohol

Finally, it should be remembered that alcohol is the most widespread risk factor in the Spanish population. 62% of Spaniards between 15 and 64 years old have consumed it in the last month. Almost 10% consume it daily, its consumption being higher in men.

The consumption of alcoholic beverages increases the risk of suffering, among others, cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal and breast. If we add tobacco consumption to the habitual consumption of alcoholic beverages, the risk of suffering from some of these cancers is multiplied by 10 to 100 times compared to people who have never smoked or drunk.

The amount of alcohol ingested in conjunction with a diet low in vegetables and fruit, common in regular drinkers, also plays an important role in increasing risk. Therefore, the appropriate amount of alcohol for cancer prevention is none .


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