Though it is believed that cancer is caused by abnormal changes inside the body, the fact is that these changes could be triggered by external factors, some of which are lifestyle related.
Cancer researchers have found that 30% of all cancers are linked to lifestyle factors like tobacco, alcohol, obesity and diet. The British Journal of Cancer carried the study as a supplement and is considered the most detailed review of cancer and lifestyle conducted.
Based on most recent data, the review was presented after researchers analyzed these data carefully and calculated the number of cancers that could be linked to factors like smoking, unhealthy diet, occupational exposure to carcinogenic substances, infections and factors like pregnancies and hormone therapy which affect women.
Smoking can be related to cancers of lung, mouth, larynx, sinuses, nose, esophagus, pancreas, stomach, bladder, kidney, cervix, ovary and acute myeloid leukemia. Smoking could in fact be the biggest cause of cancer which is avoidable.
Alcohol consumption has been found to increase the risk of breast cancer, in proportion with the amount of alcohol consumed. Excessive consumption of alcohol is linked to many other cancers as well. Consuming alcohol along with smoking or chewing tobacco could be a potentially lethal combination for many cancers.
Obesity after menopause puts a woman at a higher risk of breast cancer. This could be because of excessive estrogen produced by all the fat in the body as well as higher insulin levels caused by obesity. For men also, obesity could be the reason for some cancers.
Sedentary lifestyle and very little physical activity can also be linked to various types of cancers. There is evidence to prove that being physically active can reduce the risk of various types of cancers. According to American Cancer Society, 45 to 60 minutes of rigorous physical activity 5 days a week or more could help reduce the risk of cancer.
A diet which is low on healthy ingredients like fruits and vegetables and comprises mostly of fatty, junk food could increase a person’s cancer risk considerably. Too many processed, refined and salt-preserved foods could be behind cancers like stomach cancers and colorectal cancers. It is suggested that a diet comprising mostly of plant-based foods is best to avoid the risk of cancer.
Ultraviolet radiation comes from sources like sunlight, sunlamps and tanning beds. Some amount of sun exposure is good for general health, but excessive exposure to UV rays could increase a person’s skin cancer risk.
Specifically for women
Women, who have had pregnancies late in life, after they have crossed 30 years of age, are at a slightly higher risk for breast cancer. The possible reason behind this could be that women having pregnancies early and multiple times have fewer menstrual cycles in life, and hence less exposed to the risk.
Studies point out those women who use oral contraceptive pills are at a slightly higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who never use the pill. Once the pill is stopped, the risk also reduces gradually.
Combined post-menopausal hormone therapy
Using combined post-menopausal hormone therapy not only increases the risk of breast cancer, but also raises the chances of death due to breast cancer, within 2 years of usage. Numerous studies have shown that breast cancer could be linked to combined hormone therapy. Not only that, it also increases the chance of the cancer being detected at an advanced stage, which means the patient cannot be saved. Stopping treatment could reduce the risk to the same level as that of women not taking the treatment, but it could take up to five years.
As we now understand that many cancers are caused by things which we can change, it is our responsibility to examine our lifestyle and make appropriate changes to reduce the risk of cancer. Implementing these changes would result in fewer cancer cases and fewer cancer deaths.
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