Avoiding known risk factors for cancer and adapting agents that help the body fight against cancer can prevent most forms of cancers. It has been estimated that 80 to 90 percent of cancer is due to environmental factors. Of these environmental factors, tobacco usage is the number one culprit. It is not just the person who smokes who has an increased risk of cancer, but those who experience second hand smoke and the offspring of smoking fathers. The incidence of cancer in the offspring increases with the number of cigarettes smoked by the father. It is believed that the smoking causes genetic changes in the sperm, thus affecting the offspring. Consumption of alcohol also increases the risk of cancer. A third lifestyle decision that affects cancer risks in women is the prolonged use of estrogen. It increases a woman’s risk of cancer both of the womb and of the breasts. Dietary issues also affect the risk of cancer. There are increases in several forms of cancer related to diets high in fat consumption, particularly saturated animal fats. Studies have shown a strong relationship between eating meat in general and cancer. Colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer have all been linked to increased intake of meat and animal products including milk, cheese, and eggs. Coffee and caffeine have also been linked to increases in certain types of cancer. It has been known for a long time that excessive sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. Other things that have been associated with increased risk of cancer include asbestos and wood dust exposure, grilling of foods over charcoal, and excess sugar in the diet.
As you can see, much can be done to avoid increasing the risk of cancer by removing known carcinogens from our lifestyle habits and our diets. Next month we will look at things we can actively include in our lifestyle and diet to provide some protection against cancer.