Want to fight cancer? Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Many people believe that getting cancer is purely down to genes, fate or bad luck.

Can cancer be prevented? Yes!Most cancers- 40 % (WHO Report) can be prevented! This is a key message for a disease that is the public’s number one health fear. Research suggests that only five percent of cancers are inherited.

Many people believe that getting cancer is purely down to genes, fate or bad luck. Thankfully, that’s not true. Yes! Cancer is a major cause of premature death.

50% of cancers are YOUR OWN FAULT. You Smoke too much,drink too much, and eat badly, don´t exercise enough, you´re overweight´. There is as much evidence against poor diet, red meat and processed food but hidden agendas and politics prevents you hearing the full truth about cancer.

Risks and % of cancer deaths
Smoking and use of tobacco — 30%
Obesity, diet and Diabetes —30%
Pollutants and Carcinogens — 5%
Viruses - hepatitis, human papillomavirus, HIV — 5%
Women’s reproductive factors- late or no childbearing, late menopause, early periods etc. — 5%
Exposure to ultra violet rays — 2%

Dying from cancer is more likely among those eating - red meat - about 22% higher for men and 20% for women?We could prevent the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women just by eating less red meat and processed food — Dr. Barry Popkin.

Take steps to reduce your risk for cancer now! 3D approach.
1 - Diet and healthy Lifestyle
2 - Dangers from the environment and toxins
3 - Disease (from parasites to viruses to yeasts) and in addition.

Detect precancerous conditions early and remove them. Precancerous conditions are tumors and other conditions that may later become cancer. Chemoprevention- medicines to treat a precancerous condition or to prevent starting of cancer.

It’s a field called epigenetics-- study of environmental and external influences that can alter gene expression. This gives the potential to alter the faulty genes. More importantly, even if a cancer is genetic, it does not necessarily mean that genes express themselves resulting in cancer.The most common forms of cancer are often unrelated to genetics. Cancers develop because something has gone wrong with one or more of the genes in a cell. A change in a gene is called a ‘fault’ or ‘mutation’. Usually a cell must have 6 or more gene faults before it becomes cancerous. Factors that cause changes around your DNA leading to cancer are stress, environmental toxins, poor diet and hormones used in Hormone replacement therapy.

Vaccine for Human papillomavirus (HPV)
About two-thirds of HPV-related cancers happen in areas other than the cervix. HPV infection is related to:
80% to 90% of anal cancers
40% of vaginal and vulvar cancers
40% to 50% of penile cancers
25% to 35% of mouth and throat cancers
Practice safe sex and avoid HIV infection. People who did all healthylife style behaviors gained an average of 14 years of life compared to people who didn’t do any of them.

Is prevention a guarantee?
‘Healthy living’ is not a cast-iron guarantee against cancer. But it stacks the odds in your favor, by reducing the risk of developing the disease. For example, we know that it’s possible for a heavy smoker to live a cancer-free life, while someone who has never smoked could develop lung cancer. But large long-term studies clearly show that people who have never smoked are far less likely to develop or die from cancer than smokers.

Major strategies to prevent cancers
Primary prevention is the most cost effective prevention program as it aims to reduce the incidence of cancer by risk factor modification. Secondary Prevention: Slowing or blocking of tumor from becoming cancer. Detection of Precancerous lesions and early removal will prevent becoming cancers overtime E.g. Adenomatous polyps and chemo prevention. Tertiary Prevention Promoting self-examination skills particularly in early detection of lumps in the breast,the oral cavity and the face for early cancers and use of the occult blood test by older persons to detect colon-rectal cancer. Cervical cytology-Pap smear screening, Mammographic screening for breast cancer, preventive endoscopies etc. are to be pursued earnestly. Early cancer detection of precancerous lesions in groups at risk.

Public education
Surveys have shown that people aren’t necessarily aware that all of these things are linked to cancer. For example, studies have found that 15 in 20 people don’t know obesity causes cancer, and 18 in 20 people aren’t aware of the link between alcohol and cancer. 40% do not know that processed red meat causes cancer. Numerous cancers are preventable, but strategies to prevent them are either not accessible or not being adopted, leaving people at risk. Life-style is now recognized as a main determinant of cancer risk. Public education is an important component of cancer control programs and has been shown to be effective. A culturally and socially relevant mass media campaign can influence knowledge and beliefs and induce people to participate in a screening activities and help prevent cancers. Education is an effective tool for modifying lifestyles and reducing cancer risks. However, an effective education program requires considerable planning to teach skills and healthy life-style habits. Since human behavior is increasingly recognized as a major determinant of health, the role of public education and the conduct of effective education programs take on greater importance in cancer prevention.

The writer is a former Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology

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