Here's what you need to know now for a healthier tomorrow
It's the most common form of cancer for women in their 20s, with 340 cases of melanoma diagnosed every year - nearly double that of breast cancer. Our binge-tanning ways are to blame, and it's not just two weeks intensive sunbathing doing the damage. 'Most melanomas could be prevented by staying safe in the sun and avoiding sunburn,' says Jessica Harris, Cancer Research UK's senior health information officer. 'Snow, water and sand can all reflect the sun's UV rays, so it's important to think about protecting your skin whether you're skiing, on the beach or in the water.' Keep an eye on your skin and if anything changes or worries you, go to your GP.
Your risk of developing cancer rises steeply by your mid-40s, so now is the time to ensure cancer isn't part of your future. At 29, one in 2,300 women develops breast cancer, yet by 49, that figure becomes one in 52. It may sound scary, but the changes you need to make are easy. 'Experts believe that up to half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes,' says Jessica Harris of Cancer Research UK, 'so make the effort to live healthily.' Check if there is a history of breast cancer in your family and if so, ask your doctor about being screened for the BRCA1 gene. And cut down on alcohol - just one unit a day can increase your risk of breast cancer by 6%. Also, exercise regularly and eat a Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Your risk of bowel cancer increases with age, and 97% of cases are in people over 50. Plus, it's the second most common cancer in the UK, so your 40s is a good time to ensure you're doing all you can to avoid it. If there's a family history of the disease, polyps or ulcerative colitis, ask your GP about early screening - it gives you a 90% chance of survival. 'Get into healthy habits now,' says Jessica Harris of Cancer Research UK. 'Drinking less alcohol, eating fibre, avoiding too much red or processed meat and being physically active will all help reduce your risk.'
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