Healthy habits key in cancer fight

Flower power . . . Daffodil Day springs into action tomorrow. PHOTOS: NICK BROOK

Tomorrow, Friday, August 26 is Daffodil Day, the New Zealand Cancer Society’s flagship fundraiser, and Clutha’s volunteers will be out in force to raise prevention awareness as well as funds to fight for sufferers and families afflicted by the disease.

‘‘We’ve known about the links between tobacco and cancer for a long time,’’ Cancer Society Support Care co-ordinator for South and West Otago Diana Power said.

‘‘Reducing and quitting smoking is one of the most pro-active steps you can take to reduce cancer risk and improve overall health.

‘‘A more recent development is that we’re feeling people are ready to be educated about alcohol.’’

The Cancer Society follows advice of the World Cancer Research Fund and International Agency for Research on Cancer, agencies which look at thousands of studies, involving millions of people with cancer and their use of alcohol.

This helps estimate the number of people whose cancer is related to alcohol and all agree that alcohol is a cause of many types of cancer.

Alcohol and its breakdown products such as acetaldehyde can cause cell change in the mouth and throat and may also affect the function of hormones such as oestrogen, causing cells to divide and develop faster, increasing the chance of cancer.

Of course, when cancer risk depends on so many things, including age and genetics, it is difficult to determine the specific cause of each individual’s illness, and the society promotes the adoption of healthy habits across the board.

‘‘We’re fighting a long-term battle and we’re about risk reduction as well as support care,’’ Mrs Power said.

‘‘One in three cancers are preventable, so we lobby government for better health policy, like Smokefree New Zealand.

‘‘Diet awareness is a powerful tool to reduce cancer risk. Think about reducing processed foods including takeaways.

‘‘We need to return to an understanding that ‘treat’ foods are for treats; they are not meant for daily fare.

‘‘It’s vital for people to understand exercise can mean just a daily walk. Young people especially need to be more active, but it doesn’t have to be hard-out.’’

Cancer Society volunteers soon become aware that with the medical sector focused on the practical, physical aspects of the disease, the volunteer role fills the tremendous need for mental and emotional support.

It’s natural that people are reluctant to talk about the deadly and debilitating disease, yet there are few people with no connection to cancer.

‘‘We have different keepsake options at Daffodil Day stalls but I’ve seen people just slip a $50 note into the donation box and carry on without saying a word,’’ veteran volunteer Ann Davies said.

‘‘So many people are familiar with the disease and what the society is here to do about it.’’

Local cancer battler Alan Butler had extensive experience of both.

‘‘Cancer will make you feel powerless,’’ he said.

‘‘But there is help and there are options and the Cancer Society deserve everybody’s help to bring those options and show us we still have power.’’