Statistics for cancer paint a terrifying picture: worldwide, more than 14 million cases each year; an excess of 8.2 million cancer-related deaths; in the US approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes, approximately 15,000 cases among children and adolescents ages 0 to 19. Moreover, every projection shows future numbers only increasing.
Creating awareness regarding ways of reducing one’s risk of developing the disease is more important now than ever. While there are many factors that lead to cancer, like age, genetic predisposition, exposure to UV radiation of chemicals, others are within our control and can be managed. These include nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, physical activity, eating and sleeping patterns and more.
One study coming from Canada shows just how significant the effect of these seemingly trivial aspects can be. It reports that “Overall, we estimated that 40.8% of cancer cases diagnosed in Alberta in 2012 (38.7% in men, 42.4% in women) were attributable to modifiable lifestyle and environmental risk factors. The factors estimated to be associated with the highest proportion of cases were tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, and excess body weight”.
During the course of one year, researchers determined 16,330 cases of cancer and noted 5,817 deaths. They analyzed each occurrence in relation to 24 modifiable lifestyle and environmental risk factors, including: smoking, inadequate physical activity, diet [fruit and vegetable consumption, fiber intake, red and processed meat consumption], alcohol, hormones [oral contraceptives and hormone therapy], infections [Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus], air pollution, natural and artificial ultraviolet radiation, etc.
The largest proportion of cancers were estimated to be attributable to tobacco smoking (15.7%), physical inactivity (7.2%) and excess body weight (4.3%). All other exposures of interest were estimated to be responsible for less than 4.0% of incident cancer cases each. Among men and women, besides tobacco which was the main factor for both, men showed insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption, occupation and alcohol consumption, whereas for women, overweight and obesity, infections and ultraviolet exposure from sunlight were more prevalent.
The study highlights once again that reducing the risk of cancer means managing many facets of our daily life. It’s not enough to be careful with your diet, make time for physical activity, avoid unhealthy habits, but rather a combination of all these factors. Regular check-ups are also greatly encouraged.
If you manage to address all these components you will have a considerably higher chance of avoiding this terrible disease.
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