Lifestyle and diet

Getting enough fruit and vegetables each day is very beneficial. Your diet can have a big impact on your risk of developing cancer and other health conditions. Eating a balanced diet can be difficult, especially if this isn’t something you’ve ever thought about before. Try to take each day at a time.

Getting active is one of the best ways to lose weight. Being overweight can make you more at risk of developing cancer. You don’t need to do strenuous exercise straight away. Building up your activity levels each day, moving even a small amount, can make a big difference to your health.

Positive lifestyle choices make a big difference in the long-term. Alcohol and drugs can lift your mood and improve how you feel. But this approach only works in the short-term and can have long-term consequences.

Eating well and exercising can be difficult. You may feel low and lose interest at times, particularly if it takes a while for you to see any improvements in your health or weight. Speak to your GP for advice if you need it.

Diet and cancer

Experts think that up to 1 in 10 cancers (10%) in the UK may be linked to diet. There’s a lot of research being done into which types of food may affect our risk of developing cancer.

Research suggests that a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet may contribute to about 6 in 100 cancers (6%) in men. And being overweight may contribute to about 7 in 100 cancers (7%) in women. There are many reasons why people are overweight, but an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are often factors.

Our diets are made up of many types of foods, which in turn are made up of thousands of different substances. Some of these may increase our risk of cancer, but others may protect us. How diet affects our risk of developing cancer is complicated, and we still don’t completely understand it.

Despite this, we do know that a balanced diet and regular exercise help us keep to a healthy weight, which can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers.


Why be more active?

When you are living with or after cancer, becoming more active can be a positive change to make in your life. Evidence shows that physical activity can benefit people affected by cancer in several different ways. Research suggests that being physically active, along with eating a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of recurrence for some cancer types and increase survival. It also helps reduce the risk of developing other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Being active before, during and after treatment can:

  • reduce tiredness (fatigue)
  • improve your quality of life
  • help look after your heart
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • help you maintain a healthy weight
  • strengthen your muscles, joints and bones
  • improve your flexibility and help keep you supple
  • increase your confidence.

At first, you might be nervous about starting and building up your activity, especially if you haven’t been active for a while. You may worry that you are too tired, don’t know how to start or don’t know what is best for you to do. You may also be concerned about injuring yourself. But even a little physical activity is better than none at all. It can help you feel less stressed and lift your spirits if you’re feeling low. It will also help you feel more in control, because you are doing something positive for yourself.


Alcohol and recreational drugs

It may feel good at first to have a few drinks or take recreational drugs to help you forget how you’re feeling. However, this is only a short-term solution. Alcohol and drugs can cause problems and damage relationships with family and friends. In the long-term, alcohol and recreational drugs may seriously damage your health.

Taking recreational drugs can also change the effect of some painkillers, so your doctor or nurse may ask you about this.

It is important to be open with them about using these drugs.

Back to Managing day-to-day life

Coping with family life and work

It’s important to be realistic about what you can manage. Get help if you’re finding it hard to cope with family life and work.

Tip - asking for help

Try not to feel guilty about asking for help. Support is widely available and can make managing day-to-day life easier.