Cancer affects most of us, either personally or through someone we know. Thursday, Feb 4 marks World Cancer Day; a global effort to raise the awareness of cancer and to encourage prevention, detection and treatment. This year’s theme ‘WE CAN I CAN’, encourages everyone to be a part of working together for increased impact in reducing the global cancer burden.
Communities have an important role to play in cancer prevention. How our communities are designed and how we support individuals within our communities affects the choices people make. Up to 45 per cent of cancer is caused by factors we understand and can influence. Healthy, supportive community environments help to make “the healthy choice, the easy choice”.
Here are seven things we can do in communities to reduce cancer risk:
- Reduce ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure
Ask community and municipal leaders, facility operators and schools to set up shade structures in community gathering and play areas to protect against UV exposure. Get involved in identifying unshaded areas and coordinate planting a shade tree.
- Limit alcohol consumption
Many wonderful beverage options exist for hosting community events. Choose from delicious, refreshing “mocktails”, smoothies, flavored waters and other non-alcoholic beverages.
- Implement tobacco reduction strategies
Create smoke-free outdoor locations; post no smoking signs in community spaces. Work with municipal leaders to develop and implement bylaws and policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use in your community.
- Increase the opportunity for physical activity
Get your community moving with walking paths, community fitness, adult “playgrounds”, creating your own walking, hiking, biking and recreational groups.
- Increase the availability of healthy food
Encourage healthy food choices, such as fruits and vegetables at community gatherings focus on locally grown produce. Support farmers markets, community gardens, good food box programs and other community initiatives to increase access to affordable, healthy food.
- Increase awareness and access to cancer screening
Screening tests allow people who have no symptoms to get checked for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer in order to find changes early – and treat them if necessary. Early detection of breast, cervical and colorectal cancers increase the chances for successful treatment. And in the case of cervical and colorectal cancer, cancer can often be prevented altogether.
- Become a community champion for Community Cancer Prevention
Have conversations with others where you live, work and play about working together to take action on health in your community.
Communities can take action to reduce individual and collective risks for cancer. For more ideas visit www.worldcancerday.org and www.albertapreventscancer.ca Together WE CAN take action against cancer.