(A bit of science first)
Our genes are not our fate. We now have enough evidence to show that a lot of illnesses are reversible to varying degrees and gene expression (i.e. the way genes work) can be altered not only through medical intervention but also from changing our lifestyles. Environmental factors such as food, increased exposure to toxins and drugs can cause epigenetic changes by altering the way molecules bind to DNA (the building blocks of life), which in turn can alter gene expression, lead to mutations and hence potentially lead to diseases such as cancer. Furthermore, we are thought to have 39 trillion bacteria in our gut where, we as individuals, have a symbiotic relationship to the different types of gut bacteria. However, some can cause havoc especially when there is an overgrowth of certain bacteria over others – this is thought to be linked to our lifestyle and especially influenced by our diet. We even know that some pathogens (i.e. bacteria and viruses) can directly cause cancer where chronic inflammation has a role to play (see link).
The WHO estimates that 40% of all cancer deaths are preventable
(this equates to around 144,000 deaths from cancer every year in the UK)
(And now to everyday life)
Have you ever wondered why cancer is becoming so widespread worldwide? Or coming from a different angle and to ask it in a round about way, why do some people not get cancer and live very long and healthy lives? (Interestingly, large mammals have evolved somehow to not get cancer but I don’t think the human race has enough of an evolutionary drive to become larger to acquire this selective advantage in the next few decades). You may have heard of the longevity project where there was a longitudinal research study of around 1500 people in the US where they followed them up over the course of 80 years to try to find out what factors affect our ability to live long. More recently, a lot of interest has been sparked from the so-called blue zones, which are regions of the world where people live much longer than average. To no surprise, in both cases lifestyle was the key. In this section, we look at tackling certain lifestyles that are thought to cause poor health and (directly or indirectly) cause or contribute to cancer. Prevention of cancer is the better option than having to undergo treatment for cancer. Needless to say, it is also important to engage with the relevant cancer screening programmes as there will be a greater chance of a cure, if cancer is diagnosed early.
Rather than diving straight in on cancer as an illness and discussing ways to prevent it, let us first take a step back and look at some of the fascinating findings around the world regarding general health and wellbeing. There is a lot to be said about studying people who have an excellent track record of living long and healthy lives and also, their communities and surrounding environment. With many universal traits that contribute to their longevity, we can hopefully learn from them and make some of the necessary lifestyle changes in our day-to-day to ensure better outcomes for ourselves not just in terms of preventing cancer but also in achieving a healthy and fulfilling life.
Courtesy of TED (taken from YouTube) Terms of Services
Cancer Prevention – Let’s Embrace Them
A lot of topics are covered here but do not despair. Choose one that you can tackle first!
There are many things we can do in our lifestyles to reduce the risk of developing cancer (and also its recurrence). If we know that around forty percent (40%) of cancers are preventable, would it not make sense to focus our full attention on what can be done right now especially as the current thinking is that around one in two (50%) will get some form of cancer during their lifetime? I think this would be a smart move. If we were then to work really hard to fully optimise everything and yet we still managed to get cancer, this is then simply bad luck (interestingly, there is some scientific data and discussions to support this idea) and you should hopefully be able to find some level of peace knowing that you did your best and are continuing to do so. Moving forwards, you would obviously need to put your efforts into finding treatment(s) that would give you the best chances of a possible cure or at least, keep things in check (see Latest Advances in Cancer) but this would also need to be in conjunction with continuing to optimise your lifestyle. For those of you with active cancer or for those who have survived cancer and in remission, the stakes are clearly higher than healthy individuals who are here as well wanting to reduce their risk of cancer. In all cases, what is important is getting into the right frame of mind (yes, your mindset matters! if you would like a bit of motivation have a look at some of the topics covered in Health & Wellbeing Ideas) and putting thoughts into action wherever you are on the cancer-free journey.
Please note, the topics covered here are by no means an exhaustive list as there are other risk factors as well. Perhaps, start by reading Achieving Good Health & Resisting Cancer (n = 1) and then decide from there, what to tackle. Let’s try to focus on reducing your preventable risk factors to make sure the chips fall in your favour. Good luck!
The World Cancer Research Fund has developed a useful Cancer Health Check tool that gives you a personalised report based on clinical data you input.
Cancer Research UK has a nice diagram showing How Many Cancers Can Be Prevented
Cancer Prevention Research >> Achieving Good Health & Resisting Cancer (n = 1) I Tackling Stress I Tackling Sleep I Tackling Obesity I Tackling Smoking I Tackling Alcohol I Tackling Poor Diet I Tackling the Lack of Exercise I Tackling Sun Exposure I Tackling the Work-Life Balance I Tackling the Fear of Seeing Your Doctor I Cancer Screening I Cancer Vaccination I Genetic Testing