On Saturday 2nd February 2019 the HSE and the Irish Cancer Prevention Network are teaming with parkrun for World Cancer Day. Last year, the largest attendance of the year at parkrun was on World Cancer Day (over 10,000 runners!), and this year you can help us to make it an even bigger event by bringing a friend to your local parkrun this Saturday. Parkrun organise free weekly runs around the country and are open to everyone. You can find your local parkrun at www.parkrun.ie

Dr Abigail Collins, Public Health Consultant, HSE National Cancer Control Programme said: “The serious impact of cancer on the lives of thousands of Irish men and women means we must identify opportunities to reduce the risk of the disease and support those affected by cancer. Partnering with parkrun on this initiative is a great opportunity to spread the message that physical activity can reduce your risk of cancer and improve quality of life for people living with and beyond cancer. Last year over 10,000 people took part in parkrun for World Cancer Day which was the largest attendance of the year. We are hoping that even more people will take part this year by encouraging people to bring a friend or family member with them on Saturday”.

Being overweight and not doing enough exercise is quickly becoming the second biggest cause of cancer (after smoking). Physical activity protects against cancers of the bowel, breast and womb. It can reduce your risk of cancer through a number of ways such as reducing oestrogen levels, helping the body to use insulin more effectively and reducing inflammation – all of which have been linked to cancer developing.   Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society explains; “Up to 40% of certain cancers are attributable to being overweight or obese and with most adults in Ireland now weighing more than they should, it is really important we do all we can to maintain a healthy weight to lower the risk of cancer.  Being active and having a healthy diet contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, which after not smoking, is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention. Coming along to parkrun every Saturday is an excellent way of building regular exercise into your life.  World Cancer day is an excellent day to get started.”

More people are living with and beyond cancer than ever before in part due to earlier detection and better treatments for several cancers. Exercise during and after cancer treatment has been shown to be safe, improve quality of life, muscular and aerobic fitness and cancer related fatigue. Sean Kelly has done more than 80 parkruns in the past two years, and the camaraderie at his local parkrun in Naas has had a huge impact on his wellbeing during and after his cancer treatment: “We have built such a lovely community at Naas parkrun, we look out for each other and we help each other along. It’s amazing how when one area of your life improves, it has a domino effect on the rest of your physical and mental health. I plan my Saturdays around parkrun now, I wouldn’t miss it!”

World Cancer Day also marks the launch of the Irish Cancer Prevention Network, which brings together The HSE National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), The Marie Keating Foundation, Breakthrough Cancer Research and The Irish Cancer Society to collaborate on cancer prevention initiatives in Ireland. The Irish Cancer Prevention Network is being established to bring those specifically working in cancer prevention together to agree consistent evidence-based cancer prevention public awareness messages and cancer prevention initiatives in Ireland. Other interested parties are welcome to link with the Network.

Orla Dolan, CEO, Breakthrough Cancer Research, said:”We are thrilled to join the NCCP and other charities in the launch of the new Irish Cancer Prevention Network so we can work together to provide information and support to Irish people and share small steps we all can take, which can have a big impact on cancer.”

Helen Forristal, Director of Nursing, Marie Keating Foundation, said: “It is fitting that the new Irish Cancer Prevention Network is being launched in tandem with the parkrun activities ahead of World Cancer Day. There is an increasing focus on the importance of physical activity and exercise in reducing our risk of cancer and improving our overall health. parkrun is a fun way of getting your exercise in, so join in every Saturday morning and start making those small changes that can have a big difference to your overall health and wellbeing.”