Cancer A study published in the journal Nature reinforces what health-minded people have long known: lifestyle plays a huge role in whether or not a person develops cancer; it’s not solely relegated to their genes.
As such, behaviors like eating healthy foods and not smoking are key factors in cancer prevention. In fact, upwards of 90 percent of cases could be “wiped out,” by swapping unhealthy lifestyle choices for healthier ones.
The information stems from researchers who set out to assess – and ultimately debunk – the ongoing “bad luck” cancer debate. Many experts maintain that cancer development is mostly linked with chance mutations involving a “… strong correlation between tissue-specific cancer risk and the lifetime number of tissue-specific stem-cell divisions.” However, there’s much more to it, as the study published in Nature points out.
The study, entitled, Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development, notes that “…the rates of endogenous mutation accumulation by intrinsic processes are not sufficient to account for the observed cancer risks.” It concluded that “… cancer risk is heavily influenced by extrinsic factors. These results are important for strategizing cancer prevention, research and public health.”
‘Cancer isn’t just all about genes’
Dr. Emma Smith of Cancer Research UK says in a video that while a few cancers exist “by chance in our DNA,” many are bought on by external factors. This, she says, is “good news” because it means many cancers are preventable.
She goes on to explain that the study builds a strong, scientifically-backed “wall of evidence” demonstrating that “cancer isn’t just down to genes.” She says that four in ten cancers in the UK could be preventable – if people were to make significant lifestyle changes including eating healthier foods, maintaining a proper weight and quitting smoking.
Other factors identified as ways to help wipe out cancer cases included reducing alcohol consumption and avoiding pollution. While one can’t help where they’re born or how they’re raised, or avoid certain environmental circumstances brought about by job and family situations, there are many ways a person can – as the study makes clear – reduce their risk of developing cancer.
How you can reduce your cancer risk
Avoid processed foods. So while you may not easily be able to pack your bags and move your entire family to a new state or country where air pollution isn’t problematic, you can engage in other healthy behaviors.
For example, diet plays a significant role in keeping cancer at bay. A division of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer, released information earlier this year stating that red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans” and that processed meats are “carcinogenic to humans.” The likes of bacon and hot dogs are made using all kinds of health-harming methods designed to preserve the food and enhance flavors.
Exercise more. As far as keeping your weight in check, eating healthy foods is only part of the equation. Proper amounts of exercise also matter in the fight to keep weight down. In fact, some medical professionals are even involved in writing their overweight patients “park prescriptions,” in which they’re encouraged to obtain healthier weights – not by popping pills or resorting to the latest silly diet, but by walking more.
Many doctors even map out a person’s work or school commute, providing options whereby they walk through trails and parks in lieu of sitting on a bus or in a car for hours.
It’s been found that excess weight is associated with the development of at least 10 cancers, including breast, bowel, esophagus, ovary and liver cancer. It’s estimated that one in six of these cancers could be prevented by – you guessed it – maintaining a healthy weight.
Stop smoking. When it comes to smoking, it’s no secret that quitting (or never taking it up in the first place), greatly lessens the chances of developing cancer.
The National Cancer Institute explains that more than 250 cancer-causing chemicals – ranging from arsenic and vinyl chloride to nickel and formaldehyde – lurk in tobacco smoke.
In addition to causing stroke and heart disease, puffing away on cigarettes is also associated with causing a variety of cancers such as cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, liver and rectum.
Do your best to improve your diet, watch your weight and stop smoking. By taking charge of that which you can easily control, you’ll be well on your way to keeping cancers at bay.