What single piece of advice should we follow to stay healthy in the new year? Rob Sharp consults six experts

Avoid Sunbeds

Says Rebecca Russell, of SunSmart, the skin-cancer prevention campaign

If there's one thing you need to do this year, it is to stay away from sunbeds. There is greater evidence than ever that they significantly increase your chance of cancer, especially in the light of a report from the International Agency for Research in Cancer, which shows that your chances of getting a melanoma are increased by 75 per cent if you have used a sunbed before the age of 35. The Government, through its "cancer reform strategy", has pledged to examine the sunbed industry and its contribution to incidences of cancer. Sunbeds should be especially avoided by those with fair skin or those under 18. Sunbeds also age your skin. There is a perception that a tan is attractive and that has had serious implications: skin cancer has the fastest rising number of cases. Because of the weather in Britain, people don't realise the dangers.

Avoid panic diets

Says Sara Hiom, the director of health information at Cancer Research UK

Smoking is by far and away the number one thing that causes cancer, but that aside, the second most important thing to watch out for is being overweight or obese. However, you should avoid panic dieting. People should think more about maintaining the weight they are at, and a lot of weight creep happens without people seemingly overindulging. Our modern lifestyles mean that it's much easier to put on calories than burn them off and the more calorific goods are often the processed, cheap ones designed for people on the go. Physical exercise is good for bowel and breast cancer.

Watch fats and salts

Says Victoria Taylor, a heart health dietician, who works with the British Heart Foundation

The New Year is a good time to get back into healthy eating habits. A good aim is to reduce not just total fat, but saturated fat, too. This is the kind of fat that clogs arteries. Lard, butter, ghee and fattier cuts of meat should be kept to a minimum. Pastries and pies are also high in saturated fats, but it's difficult to tell. The best thing to do is use the traffic light food-labelling system recommended by the Food Standards Agency; especially look out for the foods you are eating to see if they are high in fat, salt and sugar. The best choices are green, so aim to pick lots of these and then a handful of ambers and the occasional red.

One of the key things to do is to maintain a balanced diet and using the traffic light food labels will help.



For more information see www.bhf.org.uk

Don't detox

Says Dr Andrew Wadge, of the Food Standards Agency

First, drink a glass or two of water (tap is fine, cheaper and more sustainable than bottled); second, get a little exercise maybe a walk in the park and third, enjoy some nice home-cooked food. There's a lot of nonsense about "detoxing" and most people seem to forget that we are born with a built-in detox mechanism. It's called the liver. So my advice would be to ditch the detox diets and supplements and buy yourself something nice with the money you've saved. I recommend the new Neil Young and Steve Earle albums.



www.fsascience.net

Get fit one step at a time

Says Matt Roberts, personal trainer

The classic thing at New Year is for people to try to change everything they do all at once on 1 January. But I'm a big fan of people taking one step at a time.

People should make a list of the 15 to 18 barriers that they wish to overcome and write them down and in the first week try to tackle two of them. Once they've done those, they should take on the next two, and build it up that way. What we find is that there is a much better chance of success if people build things up gradually.

People should also remember to exercise in different ways. If they're a gym-type person they should give that up for a while and maybe go hiking, or take up a new sport.

Get screened

The NHS breast screening programme is soon going to offer women mammograms from the age of 47, three years earlier than the current starting age of 50. When your invitation arrives, go for it. Mammograms are not perfect, but better than no screening at all.

The new NHS bowel cancer screening programme is being rolled out for men and women between the ages of 60 and 69. Every two years, people between these ages will be asked to send in a stool sample. The sample will be tested for blood and, if it is positive, you will be offered a further test, such as a colonoscopy, to see if you really do have bowel cancer. Bowel cancer kills 16,000 people in the UK every year. Screening can reduce your chance of dying by 16 per cent. Don't be squeamish, send in your stool sample. It could save your life.

If you are thinking about having a PSA prostate-cancer screening test, think twice. The value of these tests is far from certain, and you may end up having unnecessary biopsies. Beware companies offering genetic screening tests that claim to predict your risk of cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. The tests are unproven and the results are misleading. You would be better off spending the money (up to 1,000) on a smart new bicycle and cycling to work.

Says Dr Fred Kavalier, 'Independent' columnist

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