Card games have always been a part of family enjoyment over the festive season.

At the start of the game, players are dealt cards the selection of which they have little influence over.

Throughout the game, players get given additional cards from the pack, the suit and number of these cards being purely down to chance.

Some will be fortunate to be dealt a ‘good hand’ and may be lucky to pick up the card they want. However, knowledge and experience comes to the fore when playing the hand, knowing which cards to discard and when to stop, to optimise the hand you have been given.

Cancer is a little like a card game.

We know that cancer cells contain oncogenes, genetic material not seen in normal cells.

We all start life with genes derived from our parents but, thereafter, each time our cells divide changes can occur in that genetic material as something goes wrong in the replication process.

These mutations, some caused by carcinogens found in certain foods and drink, or in our environment, can lead to the emergence of these oncogenes.

This is how cancers start.

Those with the ‘good hand’ need never worry about developing cancer but, like in the card game, is only revealed at the end of the game – for us a nice long life!

The ‘bad hand’, where an individual may have inherited one or more oncogenes from a parent, results in the 10 to 20% of individuals with a family history of a particular tumour – often indicated by a parent, sibling or close relative having the disease at an early age. Such individuals need to seek appropriate medical advice.

Some oncogenes may arise simply by chance or by some yet undiscovered factor. However, ‘playing your hand’ knowledgeably and skilfully, making the right choices about what to ‘give up’, can reduce your chances of developing cancer.

The New Year is a time to look afresh at what we do. None of us lead entirely risk-free lives – we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’ and succumb, on occasions, to temptation in some guise or other.

It is about being aware of the risks and what action we, as individuals, may wish to take to modify our chances of getting cancer. Why not resolve to look closely at what lifestyle changes you could undertake.

There is plenty of information out there – a visit to the Macmillan Cancer Information Centre at Noble’s Hospital or on the Internet - to reduce your risk of getting cancer.

The choice is yours!