Your chances of developing cancer in your lifetime, what experts call “lifetime risk,” used to be over 1 in 3. But now, this has gone up to 1 in 2.1Reason enough to do your best to prevent the disease from rearing its head. Alternative therapy and lifestyle changes can help things along, cutting your risk of developing cancer. Most important, being prepared and reducing your risk can help sidestep this hurdle life may throw your way.
What Is The Big C?
Your body constantly replaces old cells that die with new ones. Unfortunately, this process of producing new cells can sometimes go awry. Cancer is, simply put, an abnormal division and growth of cells in a living organism. And there are over a 100 different kinds of cancers that can affect you. Any cell in the body can multiply uncontrollably into surrounding tissue and be termed cancerous. This interferes with the normal functioning of the body and the organs or parts it affects. It can even prove fatal as these tumors take over the body, bit by bit.2
Causes Of Cancer
So what’s causing millions of cases of cancer around the world – and about 1.6 million new cases in America alone – every year?3
An early theory on cancer causes came from Nobel laureate Dr. Otto Warburg in the 1960s. He suggested that cancerous cells are created by a combination of an acidic environment and lack of oxygen.4Since then, modern science and research have revealed other risk factors and possible triggers you should be aware of.
6 Cancer Triggers You Should Watch Out For
1. Toxic Assault
Prolonged exposure to toxins, especially in combination with cells which have not been properly nourished, oxygenated, hydrated, and cleansed, is thought to be the primary cause of cancer. Over time, the stress and inflammation caused by these toxins lead to a dysfunction in the cellular mitochondria. Our current lifestyles prompt us to eat more processed food containing chemicals and preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) that can be toxic. We also work and live in hazardous, polluted environments where we encounter carcinogens like asbestos. All of these can precipitate a toxic buildup and cause cancer.5
2. Genetics And Hereditary Roots
Sometimes, cancer can strike you simply because of your genetic makeup. Which is why medical history on cancer incidence in the family, especially among close relatives, is an important part of a doctor’s arsenal. This information helps with diagnosis, treatment, and importantly, prevention.
About 5 – 10 percent of all instances of cancer have a link to inherited genetic mutations. There are around 50 different “hereditary cancer syndromes” that are precursors to developing certain cancers. Knowing what they are and screening can help you catch a possible problem early or even before it strikes.6
3. Acquired Genetic Changes
Sometimes, your genetic makeup can undergo changes during your lifetime even if your genes were fine at birth. These acquired or somatic changes could be due to things like tobacco usage or exposure to radiation from UV light.7
The most commonly impacted genes that tend to mutate are the TP53 gene which should normally suppress tumor formation; BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are linked to ovarian and breast cancers; and the PTEN gene that puts you at higher risk of developing cancers in the endometrium, thyroid, or breast.8
4. Poor Diet And An Inactive Lifestyle
The American Cancer Society cautions that a bad diet and an inactive lifestyle could seriously raise your chances of cancer. This could be a fallout of unhealthy or poor eating. For instance, plant food is considered ideal, while too much red meat and alcohol are bad. Being overweight or undernourished can both have a role. Data from the World Cancer Research Fund says one-fifth of all cancer cases in the US have their origins in these causes.9
Deficiencies of essential micronutrients have also been suggested as one possible cause of cancer. According to the researchers, these deficiencies can cause DNA damage in much the same way radiation exposure can! So you’ll need to watch your intake of folic acid, vitamins B6, B12, C, and E, as well as zin and iron, or risk chromosome breaks.10
5. Smoking And Tobacco Usage
Tobacco smoke has at least 70 known carcinogens or cancer-causing substances in it. No wonder that smoking and tobacco usage have been implicated in cancer.11They can raise your risk of cancers of the throat, esophagus, mouth, voice box, and lung. The National Cancer Institute has also linked tobacco use to cancers of the liver, kidney, stomach, bladder, cervix, colon, rectum, and pancreas! Even acute myeloid leukemia risk may go up due to smoking.12On the other side, stopping these can cut your risk significantly.
6. Radiation And Carcinogen Exposure
Exposure to radiation can also cause DNA to be damaged and trigger cancers. If you are exposed to gamma rays, radon, X-rays, or other high-energy radiation (for instance, if you work at a nuclear facility), you need to be aware of the risks. Even medical checkups and diagnostic tools like CT scans, X-rays, and PET scans expose you to radiation that could potentially bring on cancer.13You may also be exposed to carcinogens like lead, arsenic, or radon through your cosmetics or even cell phone usage. Some workplaces could expose you to carcinogens like formaldehyde, benzene, or asbestos.14
Preventing Cancer: What You Should Do
When it comes to cancer, prevention and early detection are more important than you’d imagine. Even if your body is already under attack, finding out early will give your doctors a chance to choose from a wider range of treatment options. Early detection can also mean milder or less invasive treatment. You may also be able to avoid major surgery. And while being screened or checking for cancer may not be the most pleasant experience of your life, it will be well worth it.
Screening regularly can even help prevent precancerous lesions from turning into full-blown cancer. Which is why the Centers for Disease Control recommend you get checked for cervical and colorectal cancers regularly. Cancer of the breast can also be controlled well if caught early.15
Just as important is knowing what lifestyle changes could help cut your risk of developing cancer in the first place. Here are some things you can do:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and cereals free of pesticides and chemical additives.16Limit red meat and processed foods, and switch to whole grain foods.
- Cut alcohol intake, restricting it to no more than a drink a day if you’re female and no more than two drinks if you are male.17
- Get ample physical activity. This can work wonders in keeping the immune system ready for battle. Aim for 75-minutes of vigorous intensity or 150-minutes of moderate intensity of exercise every week.18
- Quit smoking! Within just five years of quitting you cut your risk of developing throat, bladder, esophagus, or mouth cancer by half.19
- Protect your skin from sun damage. Cover up your arms and legs if you can between 10am and 4pm when rays are at their strongest. Always wear sunscreen – ideally, one that’s got broad spectrum protection capability to shield you from both UVA and UVB rays. The American Cancer Society recommends SPF 30 and over.20
- Investigate any unexplained, sudden symptoms, be it a lump, pain, or bleeding.
- Keep your BMI under 25.21
- Get screened if you feel your genetic risk is very high. Your doctor will take your medical history to see whether your risk merits a genetic test.22
- If you are in a workplace that exposes you to carcinogens, be sure to wear adequate protection to avoid or minimize exposure. Get screened for cancer more often, as recommended by your doctor.
|↑1||Why are cancer rates increasing? Cancer Research UK.|
|↑2||Cancer, US National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Cancer Statistics, National Cancer Institute.|
|↑4||Warburg, Otto. “The prime cause and prevention of cancer.” Sign 866, no. 543 (2013): 3388.|
|↑5||Adlercreutz, Herman. “Western diet and Western diseases: some hormonal and biochemical mechanisms and associations.” Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation 50, no. sup201 (1990): 3-23.|
|↑6||The Genetics of Cancer, National Cancer Institute.|
|↑7||Wogan, Gerald N., Stephen S. Hecht, James S. Felton, Allan H. Conney, and Lawrence A. Loeb. “Environmental and chemical carcinogenesis.” In Seminars in cancer biology, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 473-486. Academic Press, 2004.|
|↑8, ↑22||The Genetics of Cancer, National Cancer Institute.|
|↑9, ↑17, ↑18, ↑21||Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection? American Cancer Society.|
|↑10||Ames, Bruce N. “DNA damage from micronutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer.” Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis 475, no. 1 (2001): 7-20.|
|↑11||Carcinogens in Tobacco Products, American Cancer Society.|
|↑12||Tobacco, National Cancer Institute.|
|↑13||Radiation, National Cancer Institute.|
|↑14||Other carcinogens, American Cancer Society.|
|↑15||How to Prevent Cancer or Find It Early, CDC.|
|↑16||Reduce your cancer risk, NHS, UK.|
|↑19||Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time, American Cancer Society.|
|↑20||How do I protect myself from UV rays? American Cancer Society.|