Top 8 causes of cancer

by Staff writer

What you need to know is that there are many things that all together affect a person’s chances of developing cancer – and while some of them can be controlled, some can’t.

If you think about cancer risk like a hand of cards, some people are dealt a worse hand simply because of their genes and nothing they do or not do will completely clear their risk of getting cancer.

According to experts, though leading a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of the disease, it is not a cast-iron guarantee against cancer.

Referencing past and present epidemiological studies, the following factors come top in their ability of favoring cancer disease:

1. Tobacco

By the end of the 1950s, convincing evidence linking smoking with lung cancer and other cancers had been obtained from case–control and cohort studies.

Carcinogens found in tobacco smoke had been shown to cause tumors when smeared on the skin of mice.

2. Obesity

Extra fat in the body can have harmful effects, like producing hormones and growth factors that affect the way our cells work. This can raise the risk of several diseases, including cancer.

It’s thought that more than 1 in 20 cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

3. Alcohol

There is currently strong evidence that alcohol use increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast.

4. Sunlight

Too much exposure to UV light, whether from the sun or sunbeds, is the main cause of skin cancers. And rates of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, are rising fast.

5. Infections

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, has been linked to a number of cancers.

Girls aged 12-13 are now vaccinated against the two most common cancer-causing types of HPV, which means rates of cervical cancer should decline substantially in the near future.

6. Red and processed meat

Red meat is any fresh, minced or frozen meat from cattle (beef), pig (pork) or sheep (mutton). Processed meat means anything that’s been preserved (apart from by freezing) – and it includes salami, bacon, ham and sausages.

Eating small amounts of these meats won’t have a huge effect on cancer risk, but it’s a good idea to limit your intake to only a couple of times a week.

Evidence suggests eating 500g or less of red meat a week doesn’t significantly increase bowel cancer risk.

7. Radiation

We’re all exposed to natural background radiation all the time, from the earth and from space. And occasionally we are exposed to higher doses which can be riskier, such as from X-rays, radiotherapy or travelling by aeroplane.

8. Hormone replacement therapy

HRT is an effective treatment for menopausal symptoms, but it can increase the risk of cancer. If you’re considering starting or stopping HRT, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first.

Image shows human T-cells attacking cancer cells.

Simple ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer include:

1. Fibre

Eating a high-fibre diet can reduce the risk of bowel cancer – it helps speed up food passing through the digestive system, and dilutes waste food, so that cancer-causing chemicals in our food aren’t in contact with the bowel wall for so long.

2. Physical activity

Being active not only helps you keep a healthy weight, but also reduces cancer risk by itself.

You don’t have to slog it out in the gym for hours a day – just 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week gives you this benefit. And even small bits of activity throughout the day add up as well.

3. Breast feeding

Breast feeding babies has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer – so if you’re able to, and not everyone is, it’s a good idea to try to keep it up for 6 months.

4. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Don’t rely on supplements to get the nutrients you need – they haven’t been shown to reduce cancer risk and, in some cases, they may even be harmful.

5. Consuming less salt

High-salt diets can increase the risk of stomach cancer, but other factors like the common bacterial infection by Helicobacter pylori and smoking also play an important role.







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