Blog: The Code Against Cancer | Breast Cancer UK

Blog: The Code Against Cancer

Published 24 May 2017

This week, from 25 – 31 May, is European Week Against Cancer. It’s an opportunity to highlight what can be done to tackle a disease that is affecting more people every year.

Cancer incidence in Europe is rising - 3.7 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2012, and that number is estimated to increase by 25% by 2030, to 4.6 million [1]. This increase is the result of both an ageing population and other factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, increasing obesity, and occupational and environmental exposure to cancer-causing substances.

The Code Against Cancer

The European Code Against Cancer suggests 12 ways to reduce your risk of cancer (you can watch a short animation explaining the code).

  1. Do not smoke or use any form of tobacco
  2. Make your home smoke free
  3. Be a healthy bodyweight
  4. Be active in everyday life
  5. Have a healthy diet
  6. Limit your alcohol intake
  7. Avoid too much sun
  8. In the workplace, protect yourself against cancer causing substances
  9. Find out about radon levels in your home
  10. For women: if you can, breast feed your baby, and limit your use of HRT
  11. Get your child vaccinated: hepatitis b for newborns and human papilloma virus (HPV) for girls
  12. Take part in cancer screening programmes

This is all good advice and following the code will reduce your risk of cancer. If all this advice seems like a bit much, remember that you don’t have to tackle it all at the same time.

The code refers to cancer causing substances in the workplace, but we’d go further than that. You can take steps to reduce your exposure to substances linked to cancer both inside and outside of the workplace, and thereby reduce your risk of cancer. We would like to see advice on reducing exposure to environmental chemical exposures in the next version of the Code.

Beyond individual actions

We can all do our bit to reduce our own risk, but we also need action from governments. For example, governments can ensure that we have access to green public spaces where people can be active outdoors, and limit the marketing to young people of alcoholic drinks.

It is perhaps in environmental chemical exposures where the need for government action is most obvious. As individuals, we can’t control the quality of the air outdoors, control the chemicals used in food packaging, or examine the ingredients of every product we buy. We need effective chemicals regulation and environmental policies that take precautionary measures to ensure that our air and water is clean, and the products we use are safe.

As the Cancer Code website says: “Cancer prevention is most successful when government policies and actions make healthy choices easier and protect citizens from cancer-causing agents.”

You can read our manifesto for the next UK government, laying out the steps needed to reduce our exposure to chemicals linked to cancer.


[1] Ferlay J. et al. Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: sources, methods and major patterns in GLOBOCAN 2012. Int J Cancer. 2015 Mar 1;136(5):E359-86

Did you find this article useful?

1 2 3 4 5
This entry has not been rated yet.

Help us prevent breast cancer Make a donation now