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New campaign in bid to raise cancer awareness

By Lisa Smyth

Every week over 130 people across Northern Ireland are given the devastating and potentially life-threatening news they have cancer.

Eight months after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer — and aged just 27 — Portadown woman Julie Clarke lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

Speaking today on World Cancer Day, her mother Maureen urged people across Northern Ireland to ensure they increase their chances of beating the deadly disease by making themselves aware of symptoms of cancers and getting themselves checked out if they have concerns.

“Education and awareness is the key,” said Maureen, who established Julie Clarke’s Angels of Hope — the only charity in Northern Ireland dedicated solely to supporting people whose lives have been affected by ovarian cancer.

“Early detection is vital in successfully fighting cancer and that can only happen if people know what to look for and make sure they go to their GP if they experience any symptoms.”

Her comments come as the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) and the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) — a global consortium of cancer organisations — said people can take steps to protect themselves from developing cancer.

They launched a campaign today — to coincide with World Cancer Day — which focuses on how the risk of developing cancer can be reduced significantly through simple steps: by quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding excessive sun exposure and maintaining a healthy weight by eating healthily and exercising regularly.

Globally, cancer accounts for one in eight of all deaths which is more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Each year, more than 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer and around 7.6 million die of the disease.

Gerry McElwee, head of cancer prevention at UCF, said: “In Northern Ireland one in three people will develop cancer during their lifetime and around 10,700 people are newly diagnosed every year.

“Most cancers are preventable, in fact research shows that around two-thirds of all cancers could be prevented if we stop smoking, avoid sunburn, eat a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and lead an active lifestyle.

“There are lots of practical steps we can take to prevent cancer which can easily be incorporated into our everyday lives. Diet alone has been linked to at least 35% of cancers so eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a simple but very important health message.

“We all have the power to reduce our risk of cancer. By making behavioural changes and developing long-term lifestyle choices we could see a dramatic fall in cancer rates in Northern Ireland.”

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