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Habits to minimize the risk of cancer

Overview

Cancer is one of the deadliest modern diseases known to humanity. Each year millions of people develop cancer, with many of them left with only a little time to live.

Moreover, frequently the cancer treatment side effects and its cost make it difficult for people to live comfortable lives.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a condition where particular cells in your body start growing recklessly without any control. According to the body part from where it originates, it may be called as

Brain cancer if brain cells are involved
Mouth or throat cancer in case of cells of mouth or throat
Lung cancer for lung cell overgrowth
Breast cancer for breast cells, and prostate cancer for prostate cells, etc.

How does cancer start?

The human body is made up of cells that help our body to perform every-day tasks and functions. For this purpose, these cells grow and divide into new cells. Healthy cells in the human body only last for a specific time after which they die, and the new cells develop.

Cancer disrupts this process as the cells lose control over their timed death. This causes the cells to continue dividing forming an abnormal growth called a tumor.

What are the types of cancer?

Based on the severity (prognosis) and the treatment required, cancer can be divided into

Malignant tumor or cancer- the tumor grows rapidly and spread to adjacent and distant body parts. Generally, due to the aggressive nature and the tendency to spread, this cancer is harder to manage. Typically, the person needs chemotherapy with or without other treatment options.

Benign tumor or cancer- the tumor remains restricted to the organ of origin. It doesn’t spread to the other body parts. However, it can affect the functioning of the organ and may cause pressure effects on the adjacent organs causing symptoms. The treatment may involve just surgery or sometimes wait and watch.

Life-style to reduce the risk of cancer

There are many causes of cancer, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to certain chemicals, etc. However, you can minimize the risk of cancer by adopting certain practices and habits.

How to prevent cancer

1. Keep your weight in check:

There is a complex correlation between obesity and cancer. This is particularly true in the case of women after menopause. Premenopause all estrogen is produced by ovaries and some by fat tissue. However, after menopause, all estrogen is produced by fat tissue. This can increase the level of estrogen thereby increasing your risk of breast cancer. With an increase in BMI your risk of breast cancer increases.

If you gain excess weight, it is important that you shed it. But the first step would be to make sure you don’t gain any more weight. Then you should lower your calorie and consume foods that aid in weight loss and exercise regularly. Eat small portions and eat them slowly. Leafy greens, beans, and legumes are some examples of such food.

2. Exercise regularly:

Researches show that exercise can reduce the risk of as many as 13 types of cancer. The studies recommend exercising for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week.

The regime helps to reduce inflammation, control your weight, and increase immunity. Exercise also improves the metabolic rate and regulates sex hormones. Exercise reduces the risk of cancer that can be caused by obesity and excess weight.

3. Healthy diet:

According to a study, there is a strong relationship between diet and cancerprevention. Studies have also estimated that a healthy diet can prevent 30-40% of cancer.

It is important you consume a diet rich in fiber and antioxidants. A diet low in fiber, or an imbalance of omega 3 and 6, all add to the risk of cancer. To reduce this risk, you must include in your diet food that is rich in antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Such foods include, juice of processed vegetables in fruits, green tea, vitamin supplements, broccoli, carrots, beans, cinnamon, turmeric to name a few. When you consume a diet that is balanced, it can reduce the chances of cancer like breast and prostate cancer by 60-70% and a 40-50% reduced risk of lung cancer as well.

Below are some everyday foods, which have anti-cancer properties:

– Broccoli: Sulforaphane, aa plant compound found in broccoli is known to have anti-cancer properties. According to a study, it reduced the size of breast cancer cells by up to 75%. Eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli is known to reduce the risk of colorectal and colon cancer.
– Turmeric: turmeric, a superfood, is known to have many health benefits (read about them here). It has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties. According to a study, consuming 4 grams of turmeric every day for 30 days reduced lesions in the colon that could have been cancerous by 40%.
– Nuts: it is a well-known fact that eating more nuts can reduce the risk of cancer. A study conducted over 30 years, showed that included nuts in the diet reduced the risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Nuts like Brazil nuts and walnuts should become a part of your diet.
– Olive oil: olive oil is one of the healthiest oils out there and has numerous health benefits (written about it in the best cooking oil article). Consuming olive oil reduces the risk of developing breast cancer and cancer of the digestive tract.
– Citrus food: studies have shown that eating fruits like grapefruit, lemon and orange has anti-cancer effects. In a study conducted on people who ate higher amounts of these fruits had a reduced risk of cancer of the digestive tract. Eating a serving of citrus fruits at least thrice a week reduces the risk of stomach cancer by 28%.

 

4. Abstain from smoking:

It is the number one cause and risk factor for lung cancer. According to a 2018 study, for every 20 smokers that get lung cancer, only 1 non- smoker develops lung cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, tobacco is a mix of over 7000 chemicals with at least 70 of them are known to have cancerous properties.

Apart from lung cancer, smoking can also cause other types of cancers like cancer of the throat, mouth, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, kidney, urinary bladder, and cervix, to name a few. Second-hand smoke is also a risk factor.

If you are a smoker, your chances of getting cancerare 15-30 times more than nonsmokers. The best thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer is to abstain from smoking. It is never too late to quit. The longer and the more you smoke, your risk increases. On the other hand, if you quit, you can significantly reduce the risk of cancer.

5. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum:

Similar to cigarettes, alcohol is also carcinogenic. It can destroy healthy cells, which will try to repair themselves. This can cause a mutation in the DNA, which can cause cancer.

Alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers of the liver, colon and rectum, breast, mouth, esophagus, and throat.

Alcohol cause a rise in estrogen levels in our body, which can lead to breast cancer. Excessive consumption of alcohol can increase your weight, which is a risk factor for cancer. Therefore, it is important that you consume no or minimum alcohol.

6. Regular medical checkups and screening tests:

Ironically, we give more attention to things other than our bodies.  We often ignore what might be happening inside our bodies until the symptoms start to show. To keep a check if the body is functioning properly, even in absence of symptoms, there are specific screening tests available.

Regular screening tests and medical check-ups help in the early detection of cancer when it is still curable.
For example,
Breast cancer: mammography, USG breast, or BRCA gene test.

Cervical cancer: Pap smear test

Ovarian cancer: CA 125 test, and USG pelvis

Lung cancer: chest Xray

Colon cancer: stools tests, coloscopy, or CT scan. Screening for colorectal cancer can save up to 300,000 lives each year.

Prostate cancer: PSA levels, and prostate USG.

Read more: Yoga for Cancer Patients

Conclusion

Cancer is known to be fatal in many cases. In some cases, people heal, but it is only after strenuous chemotherapy and medication. This can leave you extremely weak and exhausted, affecting the quality of your life. You may struggle with performing every day simple tasks.

Therefore, it is important that you adopt the above habits so that you minimize the risk of cancer in the first place. These methods will also help and speed up your recovery process from cancer. Another thing to keep in mind is that these habits will protect you from other health issues such as heart disease and increased blood pressure. So, practice these habits regularly and enjoy the benefits you get from them.

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