Cancer is one the leading cause of mortality worldwide and how to prevent cancer is an important topic of discussion. Currently, cancer is responsible for 1 in 8 deaths across the globe. By 2030, the impact of cancer globally is estimated to be 21.7 million new cases, with 13 million deaths from cancer.
According to The National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) at Bengaluru, 1.45 million cases of cancer were estimated to be diagnosed in 2016 in India. This burden is likely to become double in next 20 years.
Cancer is a very complex disease with no single factor can define its cause nor the treatment undergo without complexities. All type of cancer treatment can exert a significant psychological and financial impact on a patient and his or her family.
Cancer treatment services require a strong health system. It should ensure treatment is high quality, effective, safe and accessible to all cancer patients.
How to prevent cancer
As we all know ‘Prevention is better than cure’, almost half of the cancers can be prevented. Prevention offers the most cost effective long term strategy for the control of cancer.
It is clear from many studies and cancer researchers also have recommended that the risk of cancer can be minimized by maintaining a healthy living. This comprise of balanced diet and exercises, omission of unwanted things like tobacco, alcohol.
The more we accept healthy lifestyle in our early stages of life, the more is the reduction of risk of cancer.
Some lifestyle modification factors we can adopt to prevent the risk of cancer. Following are the recommendations for lifestyle modifications on how to prevent cancer.
- Quit smoking and use of tobacco
- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
- Limit or avoid the consumption of red or processed meat
- Eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans
- Limit consumption of fast foods and other processed foods
- Limit consumption of sugar sweetened drinks
- Maintain a healthy weight and reduce obesity
- Focus on physical activity
- Do not rely on supplements
- For mothers, breastfeed your baby, if you can
- Frequently Asked Questions
Now let us know the above factors briefly how they can help to prevent cancer.
Quit smoking and use of tobacco
Smoking and use of any forms of tobacco is linked with the prime cause of cancer.
Tobacco smoking causes many type of cancers. These includes cancers of lung, oesophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix.
As per World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality. It kills approximately million people each year worldwide, from cancer and other diseases.
Tobacco smoke has more than 700 chemicals, at least 250 are harmful and more than 50 can cause cancer.
Second-hand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, has proven to cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
Nearly 50 percent of cancers in males and 15 percent in females are related to the use of tobacco in different forms.
It is thus clear that the biggest measure to reduce the incidence of these cancers would be to reduce or omit the consumption of tobacco.
Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for many types of cancers. These includes cancers of the head and neck, oesophagus, colorectum, liver and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
The evidence shows that alcoholic drinks of all types (whether beers, wines, liquors, or any other alcohol sources) have similar impact on cancer risk.
Even small amounts of alcohol consumption is discouraged. There is no threshold for the level of consumption below which there is no risk of increase in the risk of at least some cancers.
Strong recommendations that children and pregnant women should not consume alcoholic drinks.
Limit or avoid the consumption of red or processed meat
There is convincing evidences from numerous studies that consumption of red meat and processed meat can cause colorectal cancer.
The term ‘red meat’ refers to all types of mammalian muscle meat such as beef, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.
The term ‘processed meat’ refers to the meat which has been modified through various methods such as salting, curing, fermentation, smoking and other processes to enhance the flavour or to extend the shelf life.
You should limit the consumption of red meat to 3 times per week (350 to 500 grams per week), at most. Further, no consumption of any amount of meat and adopting vegetarian diet is strongly encouraged to lower the risk of cancer.
Eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans
To include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes as a major part of your daily diet reduce the risk of cancer significantly.
There is strong evidence that consumption of whole grains and foods containing dietary fiber can protect against colorectal cancer. Phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables have been demonstrated to have anticancer effect in cell.
The goal for total fiber intake should be at least 30 grams per day with at least 5 servings of non-starchy fruits and vegetables per day.
Limit consumption of fast foods and other processed foods
Consumption of diets containing large amount of fast foods and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars contribute in overweight and obesity and therefore lead to obesity related cancer.
Individuals should limit their consumption of foods with high level of fat, starch or sugar. These also includes fast food, most processed food, snacks, bakery goods and candy.
Limit consumption of sugar sweetened drinks
Sugar sweetened drinks are high in simple sugars like glucose, fructose, corn syrup. These contribute in weight gain and obesity thus increasing the risk of many cancers. You should avoid sugar sweetened beverages and energy drinks because of their association with obesity.
Maintain a healthy weight and reduce obesity
Overweight and obesity links to many type of cancers such as oesophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium and kidney. Recommendations to prevent cancer start with maintaining a healthy weight.
Focus on physical activity
Regular physical activity and walking helps prevent excess weight gain and obesity. Therefore, physical activity may also indirectly contribute to a reduced risk of obesity related cancers.
Recommendations from World Health Organisation (WHO) are for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (walking, cycling, swimming, dancing) or 75 minutes of high intensity (running, team sports, fast cycling) physical activity per week among adults. These are minimum requirements and more exercise is probably more effective in prevention of cancer.
Do not rely on supplements
The use of supplements to prevent cancer is discouraged. There is no strong evidence that dietary supplements, apart from calcium for colorectum cancer, can reduce risk of cancer. A healthy diet as described here is the best means to reduce the risk of cancer.
For mothers, breastfeed your baby, if you can
All new mothers are recommended to breastfeed their bay, if possible. Breastfeeding is protective against breast cancer, and it reduces the risk of obesity in children.
Cancer is a major chronic disease and its treatment is also very complex. However, you can minimize the risk of cancer by simply adapting to a healthier lifestyle. A healthy diet and a habit of regular physical exercise are the basic lifestyle routine one should follow. Consuming toxic elements like all forms of tobacco and alcohol are major contributors for the cause of cancer. So, you should completely quit or limit the consumption of these elements. Cancer cannot be prevented cent percent but the risk can be minimized.
Frequently Asked Questions
Anyone can get cancer. However, the risk increases with the increase of age. Better and healthy lifestyle can only minimize the risk.
Various lifestyle choices such as your diet habit, exercise, use of toxic elements like tobacco, alcohol etc. can play a significant role for the cause of cancer. Even in some cases, the family history or genetic can cause cancer.
No. It is a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). It is not like flu or cold which transmits from one to another.
Yes. But the treatment are usually full of complexities. However, if the cancer is detected in very later stages then the possibilities of complete cure decreases.