Every one of us dreads cancer so much so that its development means the end of life for the individual. By the way, the incidence of cancer is on the rise the world over because as the life expectancy gets better, cancer rates go up and so will cancer fatalities.
Statistically, incidence of cancer and cancer deaths is more in developing countries because of their growing populations, living longer and becoming increasingly susceptible to cancers associated with industrialized lifestyles. In addition, the developing countries have the least resources to deal with the problem.
WHO predicts that cancer cases are expected to surge 57% worldwide in the next 20 years, an imminent “human disaster” that will require a renewed focus on its prevention.
But the good news is that cancers are preventable and can be avoided if current medical knowledge is acted upon. The disease can be tackled by addressing lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise. They can also be prevented by adopting screening programs and through vaccines in the case of infection-triggered cancers such as cervical and liver cancers.
Lifestyle habits to be changed to prevent cancer –
There are certain lifestyle habits that need to be kicked in order to prevent cancer:
Smoking – Smoking cigarette releases hundreds of toxic chemicals into air. Of those chemicals, about 70 % can cause cancer. Even second-hand smoke is said to be a cause of cancer. Cigars are even worse because a large one emits about the same amount of second-hand smoke as an entire pack of cigarettes. There is no “safe amount” of second-hand smoke as even low levels can be harmful.
Obesity – Extra fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen and other hormones that may stimulate cell growth and proliferation, thereby increasing chances of developing cancer. Obesity may also cause chronic inflammation, which over time can damage DNA causing cancer. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of colon, breast in post menopausal women, and endometrial cancer, among several others.
Exposure to sunlight – Excessive exposure to sun may lead to skin cancer. Using sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer but it should be of right kind, broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or higher and water resistant.
Age – One quarter of new cancer cases are diagnosed in people between age 65 and 74, according to the National Cancer Institute. Though this is a non-modifiable factor, strong evidence shows that a diet filled with a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans helps lower risk for many cancers.
Sedentary lifestyle – It can lead to the development of cancer. Scientists in Germany analyzed 43 observational studies, which included more than 4 million people and almost 70,000 cancer cases, found an additional two hours a day of sedentary behavior was linked to an 8 percent increase in colon cancer risk, a 10 percent increase in endometrial cancer risk, and a 6 percent increase in risk for lung cancer, even among people who were otherwise physically active.
Exposure to artificial light at night – The scientists have found exposing our bodies to artificial light at night increases risk for certain cancers, such as breast and prostate which require hormones to grow. One possible explanation is that exposure to artificial light at night suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep cycle and is also a powerful antioxidant. Lower levels of melatonin are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer as there is some evidence that women, who work night shifts, have shown slightly higher rates of breast cancer.
Inability to say no to another drink – If people exceed the recommended daily limit of intake of alcohol of two drinks for men and one drink for women, they have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, specifically that of the head and neck, esophagus, liver and breast.
Grilling or frying meats at higher temperature – This leads to the production of HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), chemicals that have been shown to cause changes in DNA that may increase cancer risk.
Heredity – Cancer is a genetic disease as it is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Genetic changes that promote cancer can be inherited from our parents if the changes are present in germ cells, which are the reproductive cells of the body (eggs and sperm). Even if a cancer-predisposing change is present in a family, not everyone who inherits them will necessarily develop cancer.
Not exercising enough – A large number of research studies internationally have shown that regular exercise, as long as it increases one’s heart rate, can help prevent cancer or lower the risk of it returning. A good goal is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking may be sufficient, although there is more benefit with increased intensity. Further, addition of some strength training least three days a week will deliver more dividends.
The bottom line –
If someone finds out that one has developed cancer, it will scare the hell out of him or her, shaking the individual badly for life. Unfortunately, the incidence of different cancers is rising worldwide. In view of the present trend, one will have to kick lifestyle habits that predispose one to the development of cancer.