Cancer is one word which evokes fear in people. A question frequently asked is “Is my lifestyle increasing the risk of cancer?”. The answer is “YES”. Unhealthy lifestyle does increase the risk of cancer. Here are few unhealthy habits which increases your risk of cancer. Let’s hear from an expert Dr. Santosh Datar, Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd wants to say on this.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death in the world”. Tobacco contains over 4000 types of chemicals. Out of these, around 200 are harmful to the human body and about 70 different chemicals have been found to be carcinogenic. Tobacco consumption in any form (viz. smoking, chewing, Gutkha, snuff etc.) is harmful.
Tobacco smoking increases the risk of cancer of lung, mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix, blood, prostate, colon and breast. The harmful effects are not limited to the different types of cancer but include increased risk of heart attack, lung infections, chronic obstructive lung disease, stroke, peptic ulcer, bone fractures, cataract, gangrene, Alzheimer’s disease, male impotence, miscarriages and complications in women taking oral pills.
Areca Nut Consumption
It is also called “Supari” in India. It is associated with Sub Mucous Fibrosis(White patch inside the mouth) which is a pre-cancerous condition where the person is not able to open its mouth fully. Its use has been found to lead to oral cancer. It may also result in cancer of the liver and pancreas.
Please remember alcohol is a poison. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, breast and cervix. The harmful effects are not limited to cancers but include increased risk of alcoholic liver disease, alcohol poisoning, alcohol addiction, coronary heart disease, brain damage, damage to heart muscles, damage to the pancreas, nerve damage, sexual dysfunction, thin bones, bone fractures, blackouts, high blood pressure, lower immunity, infections, birth defects, mental depression, malnutrition, accidents, violent behaviour and financial problems.
Persons having body mass index (BMI) above 30 are termed as obese. Obesity is associated with increased risk of cancer of organs, such as endometrium(inner lining of the uterus), colon, breast, esophagus and pancreas. Besides increasing the risk of developing such cancers, obesity is also associated with increased chances of death resulting from such cancers. It also increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments
Lack of Physical Activity and Exercise
Lack of physical activity and regular exercise has been linked to increased risk of cancer.
Consumption of processed meat, charred meat and excess red meat (mutton, beef, pork, organ meat) is associated with bowel cancer and has some links with esophageal and stomach cancer.
Stress weakens the immunity system, alters levels of certain hormones in the body and increases the tendency to indulge in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking. All these factors lead to increased risk of developing cancer
These include various viruses, parasites and bacterial infections which predispose the patient to develop certain cancers. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is associated with cervical cancers and oropharyngeal cancers. Hepatitis B and C are associated with liver cancers. Parasitic (Schistosomiasis) infection is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. H. pylori infection may result in stomach cancer. HIV infection is associated with certain cancers.
Long term exposure to substances like asbestos, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, ethylene oxide, beryllium, nickel, vinyl chloride, radon, ionizing radiation etc. at the workplace has been found to be associated with various cancers. Common cancers associated with occupational exposure include lung, bladder, leukaemia and skin.
This includes the environmental pollution of air, water and soil with carcinogenic chemicals including pesticides. Besides, contamination of food with aflatoxins (toxins produced by fungi) is associated with increased risk of liver cancer. Prolonged exposure to sunlight may lead to skin cancer.
Reproductive Health and Sexual Practices
Breastfeeding has been shown to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Infection with human papilloma virus and other sexually transmitted diseases has been associated with increased risk of cervical cancers. Sexual activity at an early age and multiple sex partners increases the risk of cervical cancer. A woman who never has been pregnant has a higher risk of uterine cancer than a woman who has had at least one pregnancy.
We at Ziqitza strongly urge you to follow a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few Lifestyle changes which will act as a tool for Cancer prevention
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and supari
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious, healthy and timely diet e.g. Indian diet consisting of roti, vegetables, rice, dal, green leafy vegetables, fruits, curds or buttermilk and salads
- Restrict the consumption of red meat and processed meat
- Ensure you have adequate sleep for at least 7-8 hours. You should feel fresh in the morning.
- Reduce your stress. Adequate sleep, exercise, yoga and meditation are best relaxing techniques, not dancing late night in pubs and drinking alcohol or smoking
- Reduce weight if you are overweight or obese. Consult a doctor and qualified dietician
- Remain physically active. Exercise regularly e.g. a daily brisk walk for 30 minutes a day. However, before starting any exercise regime, consult your doctor
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight especially midday sun.
- Maintain good genital hygiene and practice safe sex
- Reduce exposure at the workplace to carcinogens by following occupational health and safety norms
- Go for a regular checkup including dental checkup for early detection and treatment of cancer especially you have a family history of any cancer. Talk to your doctor about it.
- Consult your doctor for vaccination for certain cancers (e.g. Hepatitis-B, HPV).
Adding to this Dr Datar from Ziqitza Rajasthan says it must be remembered there are no short cuts for prevention or treatment of cancer. Do not fall prey to false claims, unscientific remedies or magic cures or magic foods claimed to control or cure cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or reduce weight. Consult a qualified doctor if needed.