Cancer Prevention Advice During Covid 

With Covid very much on people's minds during this trying time, we need to stay on top of any other health concerns that might arise. It’s also important to remember that when it comes to cancer, there’s lots we can proactively do to help avoid it. “Prevention is more important than ever this year”, says Bernie Carter, Assistant Director of Nursing at the Marie Keating Foundation. With 30 – 50% of cancers preventable, Bernie outlines the seven areas you can focus on to keep yourself in top shape.


1.    Exercise 

Regular exercise can help prevent bowel cancer, which Bernie says is on the increase here in Ireland with the under-50s. “Activity helps food move along and reduces inflammation in the bowel.” If you’re sitting at a desk all day, take regular breaks to stretch your legs, even if it’s just a quick walk around the block.  

2.    Diet   

With little to do at home during lockdown, it can be tempting to turn to food for comfort. But did you know an unhealthy diet is one of the contributing factors to cancer? Keep sugary snacks and takeaways to a minimum and instead, fill your plate with foods that contain plenty of fibre (wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and pulses).

3.    Sun Safety 

With Irish summers getting warmer, it’s crucial that we look after our skin. “90% of skin cancers are caused by UV rays from the sun and sunbeds”, says Bernie. Whether you’re pale or sallow, an SPF will help protect your skin from harmful rays. “If you notice changes in your skin”, Bernie adds, “do not ignore them - phone your doctor.” 

4.    Smoking 

Though we now have more quitters than smokers in Ireland, those that do smoke are putting their health at severe risk. According to Bernie, this habit causes an astounding 90% of all lung cancers. The good news is – you can quit today. Here’s what Jim McCreadie had to say about the proven Allen Carr method.  

5.    Alcohol 

Not a lot of people are aware that alcohol is a carcinogen, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer. “Specifically, it can greatly increase the risk of breast cancer in women”, Bernie notes. “We have an issue around alcohol in Ireland too. We need better education if we're going to address our attitudes.” 

6.    Screening 

Though some routine screenings have been impacted by Covid, Bernie urges people not to miss appointments. “Screenings are for people without signs or symptoms of illness”, she explains. “In Ireland we have three cancer prevention screenings – bowel, breast and cervical. Early detection of a change in cells means less treatments will be required later .” You can check your eligibility for cancer prevention screenings here.

7.    Vaccinations 

Finally, Bernie explains why it’s important for our young people to receive the HPV vaccine. “Not everyone will develop cancer as a result of the virus”, she says, “but we don’t develop immunity to it either.” HPV can cause cancer in men as well as women, so it’s important to keep everyone as protected as possible.  


To increase cancer awareness, the Marie Keating Foundation invites you to take part in a fun ‘Your Health, Your Way’ challenge. Simply commit to walking, running or jogging 10,000 steps  (within your 5km) for 20 days. Not only will your steps keep you fit, they’ll also show support for the 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland. Register for free, here.  


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