Cancer prevention must be taken seriously. The Disease causes about 7 million deaths worldwide every year, justifying the reason it has its terrible reputation. Fortunately, at least a third of these cancers could be prevented by acting on the following 14 major risk factors below:
1) Practicing Breastfeeding – although some women do not like to breastfeed, the practice has many health benefits, research shows. It is advised to women to breastfeed as long as possible; this is beneficial not only for the baby but for the mother as well. Women who breastfeed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
2) Avoiding Hormone Replacement Therapy– It is shown in many studies that most conventional hormone treatment used to reduce menopause symptoms increases the risk ofbreast cancer. There are many options to treat menopause symptoms that do not containProgestational Hormone. “Bioidentical hormones” and hormonal creams and gels are no saferthan prescription hormones and should also be avoided by women who want to prevent cancer
3) Practicing Safe Sex – several studies have shown the link between the decrease in the frequency of breast cancer (women) and prostate cancer (men) among men and women who practice safe sex regularly. Although many reasons can lead to this, such as pleasure of the coitus and the joy experienced thereafter, sexual intercourse may boost the immune system to help the body fight the tumor cells. Certain hormones such as oxytocin seem to play a major role. This powerful hormone of love would have a protective effect against the cells of the breasts, the prostate gland and many other organs of the body. Other substances such as prostaglandins contained in semen, may also contribute to some protection. But these studies need to be taken with caution because researchers have yet to learn about this theory.
4) Stop Smoking – This is the main preventable risk factor. Tobacco is responsible for about 44,000 cancer deaths each year in France, or ¼ of these deaths; and about 480,000 earlydeaths, nearly 1 in 5 deaths In the United States. Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths, causing 87% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in men, and 70% of lung cancer deaths in women, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures, 2014.
Unfortunately, the risk is established not only for active smokers, but also for passive smokers.Nearly 600,000 premature deaths per year are attributable to passive smoking worldwide. Someone who smokes near you is somehow your enemy. Tobacco is responsible for more than 50% of cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract: mouth, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus.It also increases the risk of cancers of the bladder, pancreas, urinary tract, kidney, cervix, stomach, ovaries, colon, rectum and certain leukemias. It could also be a risk factor for breast cancer.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, including sixty that are recognized as carcinogens (benzene, arsenic, chromium, tar …). But the risk of cancer is also established for the consumption patterns other than cigarettes (snuff or chewing tobacco). Tobacco (smoke-free) products contain 28 chemicals identified as carcinogens. These consumption patterns contribute notably to the occurrence of cancers of the mouth and pancreas (3). The first step toward your cancer prevention remains to not smoke at all or stop smoking immediately. The use of increasingly electronic cigarette as a smoking cessation is still a subject of debate about its safety.
5) Limit Your Alcohol Consumption – Alcohol is the second preventable risk factor for cancer after smoking. It is responsible for about 22% of mouth and oropharynx cancers in men and 9% in women. The role of the alcohol is also suspected in the development of cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast, and others… There is no doubt that alcohol use is a risk factor for many cancer types including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed; the risk from heavy drinking for several cancer types substantially increases among smokers.
It has been proven that even low or moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk, which does not depend on the type of alcohol but the amount consumed. The higher the dose consumed, the greater the risk. There is no “threshold of effect”, that is to say, the quantity below which the risk is zero.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends “to limit the amount of alcohol drunk at every opportunity but also the frequency of consumption”
6) Eat Right and Control Your Weight – unhealthy food is a risk factor for some cancers; but it is easier to intervene. Eating a balanced diet, according to the recommendations of the National Health and Nutrition Program, and maintaining a healthy weight are important elements in cancer prevention. Overweight and obesity have in fact recognized in the occurrence of breast cancer (in postmenopausal women), as well as in the occurrence of pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, esophageal cancer and liver cancer (1).
The same, certain foods can also help to prevent cancer. This is the case of fruit and cruciferousvegetables in general, through their effect on overweight, but also because of their fiber content that would help reduce the risk of formation of tumor cells. Certain vegetables such as moringa, watercress, kale, broccoli, Graviolamust not be neglected.
Conversely, certain foods increase the risk of cancer: the case of alcohol, as well as red meats and processed foods; they need to be avoided. They are one of the top risk factors for colorectal cancer (2) that is why it is recommended not to consume more than 500 g of any of these foods per week; although avoiding them completely is the wise choice. Refined Salt is also recognized as potentially increase the risk of stomach cancer (2), when it is consumed in excess. The ideal salt is the Himalayan Pink Salt which is rich in minerals.
The method of cooking is also important. Methods for high temperature cooking like grilling or barbecue, especially for meat or fish, are suspected in increasing the risk of developing certain types of cancer. The link between cause and effect is still not well proven. But in your cancer prevention initiative, you need to stay away from these practices.
7) Do Regular Physical Exercise – doing exercise regularly has been proven effective in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and some cancers. In addition to the preventive role,its benefits are recognized during and after cancer treatments, improving the quality of life for patients, their survival and reducing the risk of recurrence (relapse).
The preventive effect of physical activity has been demonstrated in the development of cancers of the colon, breast and endometrial (uterine cancer). It may also have a role in the prevention of pancreatic cancer, prostate and ovarian cancers. In addition, physical activity helps fight against overweight and obesity, risk factors for certain cancers (breast in postmenopausal women, pancreas, kidney, colon, rectum, esophagus or liver)(2). To stay in shape, it is recommends that adults perform at least the equivalent of 30minutes of brisk walking per day.
8) Watch Your UV Exposure – although it is getting controversial that (natural) sun exposure really causes cancer, overexposure to ultraviolet light, natural or artificial, is said to be a major risk factor in the onset of skin cancer. In thirty years, skin cancer (including melanoma) has more than tripled in certain countries such as France, with the increased of tanning. Nearly 70% of cutaneous melanomas are directly attributed to excessive sun exposure. Contrary to popular belief that “indoor tanning” is without risk, many recent studies have shown that tanning beds and lamps can expose users to even more harmful ultraviolet (UV) light than the sun does.
Following these steps can help you prevent skin cancer:
- Avoid sun exposure between noon and 4 PM
- Cover if possible with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses;
- Limit ultraviolet rays exposure to children and adolescents;
- Avoid the use of tanning beds which use artificial UV;
- Use a sunscreen with a filter suitable for that skin, applied every two hours and always after swimming hours.
In addition to these preventive steps, it is essential that the skin of patients that regularly exposed to UV monitored regularly by a health care professional. Early detection is the best way to fight against skin cancer such as melanoma.
9) Watch Your Exposure to Carcinogenic Environments – it is estimated that up to10% reported cancers are directly related to environmental factors: pollution, radioactivity, and others. These factors of which dangerousness has been demonstrated include UV radiation, radon (naturally occurring radioactive gas produced during the decay of radium in the basement especially in granitic and volcanic regions), fine particles (such as diesel), bisphenol A(BPA), asbestos (2), and others. For other agents such as pesticides or electromagnetic waves, their dangerousness is still debated by some agencies.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has listed 400 products, classified according to the degree of their carcinogenicity to humans (3). But the direct impact of these exposures is difficult to assess accurately.
10) Treat Your Infections Earliest Possible – Some viruses, bacteria or parasites may play a role in the development of certain cancers. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), nearly 7% of cancers in developed countries are infectious factor (4).
Common Infections that cause cancer include:
- The hepatitis B and C, involved in the onset of liver cancer (4);
- Helicobacter pylori,the cause of nearly 80% of cancers of the stomach (4);
- HIV, involved in the onset of certain cancers such as cervical, lung, liver or certain lymphomas (4);
- Human papilloma virus (HPV), causing cancers of the cervix, anus, penis or certain cancers of the oral cavity (4);
- Epstein-Barr virus (infectious mononucleosis responsible), originally lymphoma and cancers of the nasopharynx;
Detecting and treating these infections as quickly as possible is a major decision in the prevention of these cancers. Immunization by vaccine exists for some of these infections, hepatitis B and the most frequent HPV. However, some doctors make it asubject of controversy. They believe these vaccines are useless in preventing these cancers and can cause more harm than good. Some Researchers blame the vaccine against hepatitis B to increase the risk of multiple sclerosis. Gardasil®, commercialization name of the vaccine against HPV, was subject of a complaint in November 2013 by a young woman who accused the vaccine of causing her to develop multiple sclerosis.
12) Limit Certain Occupational Exposures – Some cancers are directly attributed to work and various occupational exposures. Cancers currently observed that may be the result of exposure can take up to 40 years to develop, making it difficult for employees to recognize these risk factors. According to a study conducted in 2010 for occupational health risks, it is estimated 10% the proportion of workers exposed to one or more carcinogens in their workplace.
The role of occupational exposure has been recognized in the case of a very fetal type of lung cancer called mesothelioma (associated mainly with asbestos), as well as cancers of the nasal cavities (wood dust, nickel, chromium), bladder cancer (aromatic amines, coal tar) and leukemias (benzene, ionizing radiation) (5). Concerns exist about the role of certain pesticides in the development of lymphomas, leukemia and myeloma, especially in the agricultural and viticultural areas (designated wine grape-growing region) (5).
Preventing these occupational cancers is crucial in the fight against cancer. All employers must implement very strict rules (substitution by non-carcinogenic, room ventilation …). Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees and monitor the various exhibitions which they are subject, with the help of occupational medicine.
13) Search for Possible Genetic Risk Factors – In addition to environmental factors, geneticfactors are involved in nearly one out of four cancers (6). The hereditary risk is still high in the case of some cancers, such as cancers of the breast or some colorectal cancers. Different genetic mutations have been identified as playing a major role in the development of these hereditary cancers. This is the case of BRCA mutations 1 and 2 for breast cancer. In these cases, family history can be a red flag to get tested and to identify any mutation.
However, it is no reason to panic; as long as you take early, these risks can be controlled. All patients with a family history that may suggest to hereditary cancers are not necessarily carriers of mutations involved. And even after one of these mutations was detected, the risk is not absolute of developing cancer. A healthy lifestyle associated with a healthy diet can eliminate the genesis of any malignant tumor.
However, screening can help to take preventive measures to prevent the occurrence of these cancers. Taking medications such as aspirin and live healthy can also help patients at risk for hereditary colon cancer (7). However, aspirin can cause other serious health problems including but not limited to kidney failure, ulcers of the stomach and duodenum and serious gastrointestinal bleeding.
Women at high hereditary risk of developing breast cancer may be offered prophylactic surgery with preventive removal of the breasts and / or ovaries.
14) Practice Regular Medical Check-up – The best way to detect cancer early and successfully fight it remains the regular monitoring of health by medical professional. Only professional diagnosis can detect unknown risks factors, or even propose solutions to eliminate some known factors. Regular check-ups are necessary to ensure good health, especially people 50 years and older. This advice applies to both primary cancer prevention, to avoid the occurrence of a first cancer; and secondary cancer prevention, to avoid recurrence.
(1) Obesity and Mortality from Cancer in a Prospectively Studied Cohort of US Adults, Calle E. et al, N Engl J Med 348;.17 04/2003
(2) National Cancer Institute, tobacco-related-cancer-fact-sheet
(4) IARC Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans (report available online)
(5) Dares Labour Branch (DGT) Medical -Inspection labor Sumer Survey 2010, published September 10, 2013
(6) New England Journal of Medicine – July 13, 2000 – Vol. 343, No. 2.
(7) Presentation and follow-up procedures multisite IDF care subjects at very high risk of colorectal cancer – E. Samaha, C. Cellier – Eurocancer 2013 (abstract online).