Our Education and Research Director, Terry Slevin, and Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager, Steve Pratt, explain why leading a healthy lifestyle plays such an important role in reducing your cancer risk.
Each week about 2400 Australians hear the words "you have cancer". And about 830 Australians die every week from cancer.
If you are a non-smoker - and a happily most of us are these days - the biggest factor driving your risk of being diagnosed with cancer is what you put in your mouth and how active you are.
Despite thumping this drum for more than a few years I've been surprised about how few people are conscious of this major driver of cancer.
Just over half of Western Australian adults think that it's likely that being overweight or obese increases cancer risk. This compares to the 9 out of 10 Western Australians who are familiar with the link between obesity and heart disease, and with type 2 diabetes.
But why does it matter if people know some of the risks of carrying weight but not the cancer risk?
It's important because there is a lot of confusion about the causes of cancer. It's our job to let people know what the science says. After all, through donations to organisations like ours, and through your taxes, it is you who funds that research.
It is important to be clear about the things that do cause cancer (like tobacco, asbestos, alcohol and obesity) from the things that don't (powerlines, wi-fi and artificial sweeteners). It is just as important to avoid the perception that "everything causes cancer". Because if "everything causes cancer" then we may as well give up and just wait for it all to happen. But at least some of the control is in your hands.
There is no doubt that carrying extra body weight increases the risk of cancer, and that this risk increases as weight increases. There are now 13 different cancers linked to excess body fat, including breast and bowel cancers. These are two of the most common cancers affecting Australians. It was estimated that in 2010, almost 4000 cancer cases were caused by excess body fat. These aren't trivial numbers and they're likely to go up.
Being overweight influences insulin-like growth factors and hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These all play a role in promoting cell growth. And out of control cell growth is what cancer is all about.
Regardless of weight, eating a healthy diet does good things to reduce your cancer risk.
By being physically active on a regular basis you are further reducing your chances of getting "the big C".
And of course by getting food and activity right, you are more likely to be a healthy weight, and that also helps protect against cancer.
Right now, more than two in three Western Australian adults are overweight or obese. And unless we do something, this is set to keep rising. As individuals and as the community there are things we can do to put the brakes on. If we don't, we will see the number of obesity-related cancers keep rising.
For people who are carrying extra weight, stopping weight gain is a win. Losing weight is even better.
The changes don't need to be massive. By being a bit more active and choosing more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, weight gain can stopped and cancer risk reduced.
But wait...there's more! All of these small changes also lower the risk heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It's hard to see a downside.
When it comes to cancer we can't pretend that we can control everything.
But we do know how to prevent more than one-third of cases of this horrible disease.
So the ball is in your court to do what you can to reduce your chances of joining these frightening statistics.
I talked a little while ago about being in the "birthday business". More people can enjoy more birthdays, their own and the birthdays of the ones they love, by being fitter, healthier.
The message is simple to say, but maybe a little tougher to do. Eat well, be active and aim for a healthy body weight. For more info about weight and health, and practical tips to eat better and move more, visit www.livelighter.com.au