This year the focus for World Cancer Day is on obesity and physical activity. The HSE aim to raise awareness that we all have the power to reduce our risk of getting cancer.
Supporting Healthy Ireland, the HSE National Cancer Control Programme and parkrun are partnering to encourage everyone to “Bring a friend to parkrun” on Saturday, February 3.
The aim of this parkrun is to raise awareness of the importance of exercise in preventing cancer and enhance quality of life for those living with and beyond cancer. By encouraging a friend to come to parkrun with you, you are both reducing your cancer risk and spreading a really important message to your family and friends. The run is free and happening in 72 locations all across Ireland, it is open to everyone, and you can go as fast or as slow as you want. A list of locations can be found here.
Most people are aware that smoking causes cancer. What many are not aware of, however, is that excess body weight and lack of exercise is quickly becoming the second biggest preventable cause of cancer. In Ireland it is estimated that approximately 800 new cases of cancer and 300 deaths from cancer each year are due to being overweight and obesity. However, approximately 30-40% of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes. For example, a woman who exercises for two hours every week reduces her risk of breast cancer by 5%. For bowel cancer there is an average risk reduction of 20% with high versus low levels of exercise.
Excess body weight increases inflammation throughout the body and alters levels of insulin, sex hormones and growth hormones, all of which may trigger cells to grow rapidly and in an uncontrolled way, which increases the risk of cancer. The longer a person is overweight, the greater their risk. Regular exercise, like taking part in parkrun, can reduce your cancer risk.
And for those who have already been diagnosed with cancer, exercise has been shown to improve their quality of life.
Stella O Shea was diagnosed with breast cancer over three years ago, “Following my cancer diagnosis, parkrun has helped me to regain the sense of normality I lost for so long after I became ill. parkrun gives me a focus each weekend where I exercise with people from all walks of life, where we are all the same when the start whistle blows, where we encourage each other along the route and where we laugh and joke at the finish. It is never a race… it’s a run, a jog, a walk and for many, a mix of all three. Tralee parkrun celebrates its third birthday on World Cancer Day this year… “Bring a friend along” and enjoy the welcome which I am sure you will receive”.
Áine Lyng, Cancer Prevention Officer with the HSE National Cancer Control Programme, says “Partnering with the park run community is a great opportunity to increase awareness about the benefits of exercise in reducing cancer risk. As a parkrun participant you are doing just that - reducing your risk of cancer by regularly taking part in exercise. We are encouraging more people to get active and we would like your help. We are asking you to bring a friend to your local parkrun on 3rd of February for World Cancer Day, and to help spread the word about how important exercise is in staying healthy and in reducing your cancer risk.”