Reducing your risk

Making some simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. These are some of the most important choices you can make to reduce your cancer risk.

Avoid smoking

Woman breaking a cigarette in halfSmoking is the main cause of illness and early death in Northern Ireland. As well as other conditions, it causes many types of cancer, including lung, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, pancreatic, cervical, and leukaemia.

The long-term effects of second-hand smoke are also dangerous - regular passive smoking can increase your risk of lung cancer. If you smoke, stopping can help improve your health by reducing the risk of tobacco related health problems.

Northern Ireland has over 600 smoking cessation specialist services available to people at no charge. For useful tips and help with stopping smoking, go to and order a free Quit Kit.

Maintain a healthy weight

We come in many different shapes and sizes — but maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce your risk of getting cancer. For most adults that means having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 20-24.9. BMI can be easily calculated as:

BMI is weight (in kilograms) divided by (height (in metres) times height (in metres))

Or take a look at the BMI chart and calculator at This website also gives lots of useful tips on how to achieve a healthy weight by eating well and being more active.

Vegatarian meal in a casserole dish

Eat healthy foods

By eating well, we can help prevent many of the health problems that are common in Northern Ireland. As well as cancer, these include heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. A healthy diet may even reduce your risk of developing vascular dementia. 

Many people believe that eating healthily is about dieting or eating less. In fact, it's simply a case of eating more of what your body needs and less of what it doesn't - what we call a balanced diet.

Find out more about healthy eating by visiting Choose To Live Better healthy recipes.

Limit alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. Studies also indicate that the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. 

It is considered a major risk factor for certain types of cancers, specifically, head and neck cancers (oral cavity, throat, and larynx), oesophageal cancer, and liver cancer. Alcohol is also considered a risk factor for breast and colorectal cancers. 

People who both smoke and consume alcohol have a much greater risk of developing oral cancer, throat, larynx and oesophageal cancer than people who consume either alcohol or tobacco alone. 

You can reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related cancers by choosing not to drink at all. However, if you do consume alcoholic drinks, keep within the recommended limits. For further information about alcohol limits visit  

Get moving every day

Regular physical activity is important for good health (for adults and older people at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days, and for school children at least 60 minutes every day, is recommended). It helps maintain a healthy weight and may reduce the risk of developing many diseases including cancer of the breast and colon, and even vascular dementia. For health benefits, each activity should last 10 minutes or more. For useful tips on how to get stay fit, visit

Woman applying sun screen

Stay safe in the sun

Over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, either from natural sunlight or from artificial sources such as sunbeds, is the main cause of 80% of skin cancers. So protecting yourself from these rays is an important way to reduce your risk of cancer. Enjoy the sun safely by seeking shade between 11am and 3pm, wearing a wide-brim hat and sunglasses, and using 30+SPF suncream.  For more information about care in the sun, go to

Take up screening invitations

Regular cancer screening is important. Screening can detect certain cancers before you have any symptoms. Finding cancers early means that treatment is likely to work best. In Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency runs screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancers.