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Our Lifestyle Can Promote Development of Cancer
Cancer is a broad term, which describes the disease that occurs when cellular changes cause the uncontrolled growth and division of cells. A cell receives instructions to die so that the body can replace it with a newer cell that functions better. Cancerous cells lack the components that instruct them to stop dividing and die. As a result, they build up in the body, using oxygen and nutrients that would normally feed other cells.
Cancer cells can form tumors, affect the immune system and cause other changes that prevent the body from functioning normally.
Cancer cells can appear in one area, and then spread through the lymph nodes. These are clusters of immune cells located throughout the body.
According to WHO, the global cancer burden is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. One in 5 men and one in 6 women worldwide will develop cancer in their lifetime and one in 8 men and one in 11 women die from the disease.
There are so many risk factors responsible for causing cancer. In addition to biological, environmental and occupational risk factors, lifestyle-related factors also play an important role in the development of various types of cancer.
Lifestyle factors –
Many of the factors that potentially affect our chance of developing cancer come from our lifestyle and our personal choices. This means we have some control over our exposure to these factors. A number of modifiable lifestyle factors responsible for causing cancer are as follows:
Overweight and obesity –
Worldwide, it is estimated that 3.6% of all new cancers in adults are related to excess body weight. Excess body fat has been identified as a likely cause of gallbladder, advanced prostate cancer and ovarian cancer. There is convincing evidence that abdominal obesity increases the risk of colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer, and is a likely cause of pancreatic cancer. Adult weight gain has been identified as a further likely cause of postmenopausal breast cancer. So, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life has clear health benefits and can have an important protective effect against cancer.
Physical inactivity –
Worldwide, it is estimated that 135,000 cancer deaths each year are attributed to physical inactivity. Physical activity protects against certain cancers and also limits weight gain, even a cause of some cancers.
To reduce the risk of cancer, adults should accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, or an equal combination of both moderate and vigorous activities. Activity at the top end of the scale ie 300 minutes of moderate/150 minutes of vigorous is necessary to prevent unhealthy weight gain and some cancers. It is also recommended to minimize the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting and to break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
Globally, it is estimated that 374,000 cancer deaths each year can be attributed to low fruit and vegetable intake.
A varied diet of nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy products, lean meat, fish and water and limiting intake of foods with saturated fat, added salt and added sugars is recommended. The standard dietary guidelines recommend consuming five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day and limiting meat consumption to 455g of lean meat per week, i.e. up to 65g per day.
WHO identifies tobacco use as the single largest preventable risk factor for cancer mortality worldwide and estimates that tobacco use causes up to 1.5 million cancer deaths each year.
Tobacco smoke has an effect on the wider population through exposure to second hand tobacco smoke. There is also a danger of third-hand smoke. It is the residue of nicotine and other chemicals in the tobacco, which sticks to clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, beds, carpets, fabric, cars and other surfaces long after smoking has stopped. Humans are exposed to these chemicals by touching contaminated surfaces or inhaling the off-gases from these surfaces.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer and other major cancers. Five years after stopping smoking, the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancer is reduced by half and the risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half after 10 years.
Quitting smoking can also contribute to both short- and long-term improvements in health, including a drop in heart rate and blood pressure, improved circulation and lung function, and reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. WHO reports that people of all ages, who have already developed smoking-related health problems, can also benefit by quitting smoking.
WHO has estimated that excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 351,000 cancer deaths internationally each year. The increased risk of cancer starts at a low level and increases with higher levels of alcohol consumption. When taken together, tobacco smoking and alcohol interact synergistically to increase the incidence of cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Generally, it is considered safe to limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
UV radiation –
According to WHO, there were 65,000 melanoma-related deaths internationally in 2000. There is strong evidence that UV-emitting tanning devices (solaria) cause melanoma of the skin and eye and are positively associated with squamous cell carcinoma. An increased risk of melanoma is associated with solarium use before the age of 30. To reduce UV exposure and promote use of sunscreen and protective clothing, a change in our attitude is necessary.
Worldwide, an estimated 16.1% of new cancers are attributed to infections. However, the estimates vary greatly between regions. According to the World Cancer Report 2008, human papilloma virus, helicobacter pylori, and hepatitis B and C viruses have been identified as the main infectious agents, accounting for 6.1%, 5.4% and 4.3% of all cancer cases, respectively, internationally. Together they cause 1.9 million cancer cases worldwide.
Therefore, taking adequate preventive measures will go a long way in preventing the development of many cancers.
The bottom line –
It has been observed worldwide that the incidences of all types of cancers are gradually increasing, for which a large number of risk factors are responsible. Regardless of all other risk factors, our lifestyle is responsible for the development of many types of cancer. It is worth knowing that most of our lifestyle factors are modifiable. By changing them appropriately, we can stop the development of many cancers.
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