Think of you and two other people. According to the American Cancer Society, one of you will develop some type of cancer. More specifically, this rate is 37.81% or about one out of three women and 43.81% or almost one out of two men. These numbers are also expected to rise. Now take two people with this disease and think of this: one of them could have prevented it! According to The Cancer Action Network a branch of the American Cancer society, nearly half of all cancers could be prevented if people quit smoking, exercised regularly, ate healthy, got cancer screenings, and avoided behaviors and chemicals known to be carcinogenic. Men are most likely to develop prostate cancer with a risk rate of 15.02% or one in seven, while women run the highest risk of developing breast cancer with a rate of 12.33% or one in eight. ,
We know that certain factors drastically increase cancer risks. Tobacco is believed to cause as much as 30% of all cancers. Viruses such as HPV, Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis B/C, and helicobacter increase risks of cervical and sexual organ cancers, certain types of lymphoma, gastric cancers, and liver respectively. Radiation such as sunlight, x-rays, and CT scans, also increase cancer risk in patients and technicians. Immunosuppressive medicine such, ironically, chemotherapy are also suspect.
Diet, exercise, pollution, and genetics also influence risk. High consumption of alcohol, fat, and meat, particularly burned meat such as fried and grilled, lack of exercise and obesity, are also factors in. In addition, pollution of air and water, asbestos, pesticides, fluoridated water, artificial sweeteners, and certain types of chemicals are also indicative of higher risks. Last, but definitely not least, genetic factors such as testing positive for genes like BRCA1 and 2, hormonal imbalances, and even psychological stress also can lead to cancer.
Breast cancer risk.
In addition to the generic cancer risks, breast cancer specifically has more particular triggers. Known risk factors for breast cancer include age, genetics, early menstruation, late menopause, age at first childbirth, lack of breast feeding, and hormone replacement therapy. It is also believed that diet influences 30% of cancers in developed countries. For example, Asian women who have low rates of breast cancer in their home countries, have drastic increases as a result of immigrating to the United States. This trend is seen with other ethnicities and immigration.
Dietary fat factors the most in the risk of breast cancer as increased serum levels raise the levels of the hormones which increase risk of breast and endometrial cancer. The risk is even higher in post-menopausal women. More specifically, fried and grilled meat is most unhealthy for women. It is believed that chemicals that develop in charred meat, is where the risk lies. Also, as suspected, a linear correlation was found between alcohol consumption, smoking, and breast cancer.
Prostate cancer risk.
Prostate cancer has a long latent phase implying that diet and nutrition may influence its progression. It is usually detected between the ages of 50 and 70. While genetic predispositions have been demonstrated, about 90% of prostate cancer cannot be explained by hereditary factors.
Diet and nutrition influence the risk. There are also low and high risk areas for this disease. This is seen by increased occurrences when ethnic groups travel from one area to another. As in the case with breast cancer, countries such as China and Japan have the lowest rates of mortality from prostate cancer. There is about a 30 fold difference between such countries and more economically developed countries such as the United States. However, with the westernization of the Japanese diets, autopsies have detected an increase in this cancer from 22% in 1965-1979 to 35% in 1982-1988.
Studies have also shown more aggressive and lethal prostate cancer among smokers. Risks also increase with the frequency of sexual encounters and the number of sexual partners. This may be due to the higher prevalence of venereal disease, such as is the case with cervical cancer.
Hormones are also linked to this cancer. Testosterone is the major regulator of prostate health and a strong influence on the bioavailability of other androgens. Other hormones like growth hormone, corticosteroids, estrogens, and thyroid hormone, also affect prostate biology. The fact that eunuchs and males with androgen abnormalities do not develop prostate cancer, further supports the theory that hormones play an important role in the development of prostate cancer. High calorie diets, particularly from saturated fats, elevate not only the risk of this cancer but also its aggressiveness. Strong evidence supports a linear relationship between prostate cancer and diets high in animal fat and dairy.
Prevention breast cancer.
A study of 1945 physically active and 1995 physically inactive female college students showed that, athletes had a 40% decrease in breast cancer risk after even as long as 16 years. This reduction extended to 80% protection by when their age reached 45. This protective effect extended to postmenopausal age. However, this effect was noticed for women who exercised for more than six hours a week. In addition, leaner, active women have lower breast cancer rates than heavier, active women. The preventive effect of exercise is due to its stimulation of the immune system and a decreased estrogen level during recovery.
Nutritionally, soy products are believed to protect against breast cancer due to their high levels of phytoestrogens. Studies also show that higher consumption of vegetables, more so than fruit, reduces cancer occurrences. This is due to their high anti-oxidative effects. Anti-oxidants scavenge free-radicals, damaging chemicals which oxidize lipids making them toxic, they aid in DNA repair, stimulate the immune system, and have anti-carcinogenic powers. Vitamin B in particular, plays an important role in DNA synthesis and reparation, and has also been shown to exert anti-carcinogenic activities. In addition, unsaturated fat, has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 30%.
Prevention prostate cancer.
Similarly, increased physical activity and low calorie and low fat diets also reduce prostate cancer risk. While saturated fat increases risk, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slow growth of human prostate tumor cells xenographs in mice. Studies have also shown that consumption of vegetable protein lowers risk. There is also a statistically significant reduction of prostate cancer associated with vitamin E supplementation. Vitamin A is also implicated in risk reduction, as deficiency has been shown to produce tumors in rodents.
Perhaps the largest influence exhibited on the risk of cancer is lycopene. Men who consume two or more servings of tomato sauce per week have a 36% reduction in risk.
In conclusion, to prevent cancer risk as much as it can be prevented, we should start living the way we know we should be living, as soon as possible. We ought to stop smoking and drinking, and start exercising. Stop eating processed, high fat, and fried foods, and start eating more vegetables. Avoid excessive behaviors and reduce psychological stress. Reduce exposure to radiation and spend more time outside; but be careful of getting too much direct sunlight. We should focus less on how to grow more and do everything faster and cheaper, and keep our ground, air, and water clean. In other words, we ought to take care of ourselves and our life-giving sources. This may sound inconvenient and maybe even boring. We live in a world where food needs to be “fun” and going out to the bars is considered “relaxation”. But if you speak to enough cancer patients you’ll discover that the emotional, fiscal, and physical costs of cancer treatment, is a much bigger inconvenience.
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