We can play an active role in preventing cancer, as toxins in our environment, and our lifestyle habits and choices appear to play a far greater role than genes do.
The carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in our environment came from a variety of sources in our workplaces, our homes, and our general living environment. We can be exposed to carcinogens in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, X-rays we have to undergo and ultraviolet light to which we are exposed. Then of course there are culprits such as cigarette smoke – both first and second hand. Many people are exposed to harmful carcinogens (often chemicals) in the workplace.
To an extent we can still control our exposure to some toxins on our environment, but we have little control over our genetic inheritance, which is also a risk factor for cancer.
There are certain risk factors that play a role increasing someone’s cancer risk, some over which we can exercise a measure of control, and others over which we can’t. The following information comes from The National Cancer Institute:
- The average age of a cancer diagnosis in the US is 66 years. One quarter of all new cancers are diagnosed in people between 65 and 74.
- High alcohol consumption definitely increases your risk of cancer of the throat, the mouth, the liver the breast and the voice box (larynx). Heavy drinking is defined as drinking more than 15 drinks per week for men and 8 for women.
- Cancer-Causing Substances. Exposure to these over long periods of time may contribute to the development of cancer. These can include the sun’s rays, tobacco smoke and a large variety of chemicals and other substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, benzene, coal tar, radon, soot and wood dust, to name but a few.
- Chronic Inflammation (inflammation that does not go away) involves an inflammatory process that can cause DNA damage and eventually lead to cancer.
- While some foods contain high levels of antioxidants (cancer-fighting agents) and others are thought be possibly harmful, no study has definitely shown that specific foodstuffs cause or protect against cancer. A healthy diet does, however, promote general health.
- High levels of oestrogen and progesterone have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Medication aimed at suppressing the immune system (such as after an organ transplant) can make the immune system less capable for detecting and destroying cancer cells.
- Infectious Agents. Some viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause cancer in those who have been infected.
- Obesity may lead to an increased risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- Ionising radiation and high energy radiation can damage your DNA and cause cancer.
- The ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to skin damage and skin cancer.
- Tobacco smoke can cause lung cancer, larynx (voice box), mouth, oesophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukaemia.
In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, MediHub cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.