A brief note on the risk factors of cancer and lifestyle management

Do you know that many cancers occur because of the lifestyle of man/woman. By modifying our lifestyle to control the risk factors we can reduce the incidence of many cancers.

Tired of being exhausted? Feeling sluggish of work?

People with cancer symptoms and signs have a lot going for them. Cancer have a very complex nature. Nearly about millions of people suffering from cancer in the world who have had some type of cancer. Some of them cancer -free ,others are still battling the disease.

There are certain factors which may not be able to modify such as age,sex,race and heredity.

1) Age- the prevalence of cancer increases with age.It is not certain whether this is due to the changes in the body as a result of the aging process, long incubation period of cancer or longer period of exposure to carcinogens.

2) Sex- Certain cancers like lung and esophageal cancers are more common in men than in women.

3) Race- Fair skinned people are more susceptible to skin cancer.

The risk factors of cancer which can modify by changing our lifestyle are:

1)Tobacco – tobacco in any form ( tobacco,bidis, chewable, cigar) is a risk factor for cancer modification.

a) stop smoking cigarettes,bidis,cigars and pipes.

b) stop use of chewing tobacco,snuffs,pan masala etc

People of the adolescents age group should be specifically targeted, because this is the age when the use of tobacco is initiated. The contents of tobacco especially nicotine are highly addictive substances and hence once hooked it is very difficult to quit the habit.

Lung cancer

2) Diet- high fat diet is a risk factor for cancer hence we should control our fat especially animal fat intake. It is better to keep away from non- vegetarian foods and excess of dairy products like ghee, butter etc. If non- vegetarian foods are used , the frequency is to be reduced and lean meat ,fish can be used.

Low fibre intake is a risk factor for colon cancer. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta carotene and Vit. A,C and E is said to offer protection against cancer. These act by hindering the formation of carcinogens or by counteracting the effects of carcinogens.

Highly salted,junk foods or preserved foods increase the incidence of gastrointestinal tract and hence their use is avoided.

3) Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption is another cause of cancer of the colon and other segments of the gastrointestinal tract, especially when combined with tobacco.so, the alcohol intake is to be reduced or better still stopped.

4) Obesity

Obesity is a risk factor in uterine and breast cancer. The modification suggested is to keep one’s weight in control by limiting caloric intake and by doing moderate exercise regularly.

5) Sedentary lifestyle

It pays in many ways to lead an active life. Increased physical activity is said to promote bowel contraction, which speeds up the fecal stream and reduces the time for which the colonic cells are exposed to any carcinogens in the feces,there by reducing the risk of colon cancer.

6) Sunlight

Excessive exposure to sunlight as a recreation eg. Sunbathing or occupation eg. Sailors, Farmers is an important cause of skin cancer. The risk can be decreased by reducing the time of exposure to dun especially during mid-day hours and by the use of sunscreens and protective clothing so that skin is not exposed to the radiation.

7) Occupation

Occupation exposure to asbestos, benzene, tars,chromium,nickel etc can lead to a variety of Cancers of lungs,skin, bladder and bone marrow.

So, there are modification are suggested;

1) Improved personal hygiene.

2) Daily bathing can reduce the incidence of scrotal cancers in chimney sweeps.

3) Alerting the workers to the hazards and regular medical checkup of workers.

4) Avoiding the use of masks and other protective devices.

5) Regular inspection of factories to ensure that they adhere to the safety standards.

8) Medical procedures and prescribed drugs ( iatrogenic)

Wrong or excessive use of these can lead to a variety of Cancers. This can be decline due to some safety measures like:

a) Better treatment planning eg. Careful use of anti-cancer drugs

b) Measures like addition of progesterone to hormone replacement therapy for post menopausal women has been reduced the incidence of uterine cancer.

9) Viruses

Viral infection have been implicated as causative agents in a few cancer eg. Hepatitis B in hepatocarcinoma ,human papilloma virus( HPV) in cervical cancer.

a) Vaccination against the hepatitis B virus especially in the high risk areas

b) Improved penile hygiene and use of condoms to prevent infection of cervix by HPV.

10) Genetic factors

The incidence of cancer is higher among patients with positive family histories than among unselected patients. The risk can be very high in certain groups of patients with a family history of breast Cancer or bowel cancer.

Mongolian are more likely to develop leukaemia than normal children. Osteosarcoma and thyroid cancer in twins are other examples where heredity may be involved.

So, we can concentrate more on regular screening and early detection of cancer. We can take measures like:

1) Regular physical examination eg. Breast,Eye

2) Mammography in suspect or high risk cases

3) Any symptoms or signs eg. Change in bladder or bowel habit in member of a ‘colon cancer family ‘ should be immediately investigated.

Now, you understand that the major causes of cancer such as tobacco,fat, alcohol, Obesity,UV light are clearly associated with our lifestyle.

Dr S.K.jha