Cancer Causes and Prevention

Around 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 American women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 1) , and over 500,000 die each year from various forms. (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 1) In 2013, an estimated 1,660,290 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. While cancer is currently incurable, there are ways to lower your risk of developing cancer through good nutrition, and lifestyle choices. CAUSES What we think of as “cancer” is actually a collection of diseases, each affecting different organs in different ways, although the primary indicator is malignant growths.

Cancer begins when a cell mutates and begins to grow abnormally into a tumor. This tumor can metastasize and spread to other regions of the body, and eventually the body’s innate defenses can no longer fight the disease. Cancer can be caused by a variety of factors. Many cancers have a genetic component; around 5% of all cancers are “strongly hereditary, in that an inherited genetic alteration confers a very high risk of developing one or more specific types of cancer. ” (American Cancer Society, 2013, p.1).

Carcinogenic substances can cause cancer if a person comes into contact with them. Some examples of these substances are the chemical benzene, the mineral asbestos, and physical objects like x-rays and ultraviolet light. (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 47) The chemicals in cancer are well known to cause cancer; “smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths. ” (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 35) However, most cancers are caused by “interactions between a person’s genes and the environment.

” (Rolfes, 2011, p. 626) In fact, around 25% to 33% of cancers that occur in the US are due to “poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and excess weight, and thus could be prevented. ” (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 45) Obesity and lack of exercise are each risk factors for a variety of cancers. Environmental factors like smoking, pollution, and radiation exposure also cause the development of certain types of cancer. People who have high alcohol and tobacco use combined with low fruit and vegetable consumption have higher rates of head and neck cancer.

Alcohol use is linked to mouth, throat, breast, and liver cancer. Even eating grilled foods regularly can increase your cancer risk. (Rolfes, 2011, pp. 627-628) However, while genetics are unavoidable, and not all environmental factors can be controlled, eating right can play a large role in preventing cancer development and growth. DIET CHOICES What you eat can play a role in whether or not you develop cancer. Certain diets may raise or lower your risk of getting cancer.

For instance, “vegetarians have a significantly lower rate of cancer than the general population. ” (Rolfes, 2011, p. 63) This is likely because of the elimination of animal fats and proteins and the higher inclusion of fruits and vegetables. Some scientists believe that the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer is eat more vegetables and less meat. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 63) People who eat the Mediterranean diet, which prioritizes fresh foods and whole grains and avoids meat, butter, and hydrogenated fats, have a lower incidence of many cancers.

(Rolfes, 2011, p. 168) Certain nutrients can also protect against cancer. While some people are not able to change their entire diet, adding one or two key nutrients can go a long way. For example, increasing your dietary fiber intake could reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. “People who ate the most dietary fiber reduced their risk of colon cancer by 40 percent compared with those who ate the least fiber. ” (Rolfes, 2011, p. 119) The best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.

The nutrients folate and a green tea phytochemical are involved in silencing or inhibiting DNA methylation which helps protect against some cancers. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 200) Folate in particular is thought to reduce the risks of pancreatic, esophageal, and colorectal cancer. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 328) Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids seem to reduce the risks of a variety of cancers, including prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 379) Calcium is thought to protect against colon cancer.

(Rolfes, 2011, p. 401) Soybeans and other soy products correlate with low rates of breast and prostate cancer. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 449) Many phytochemicals – chemicals found in plants – also seem to decrease cancer risks, including alkylresorcinols, isoflavones, isothiocyanates, lignans, monoterpenes, phytic acid, resveratrol, saponins, and tannins. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 450) Some foods which are high in many of these factors are broccoli, grapes, apples, garlic, black tea, and chocolate. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 452).

It is important to reduce the intake of certain nutrients that can increase your cancer risk or promote cancer growth. The saturated fats found in meat products are thought to increase the risk of cancer, and reducing your intake of saturated fat will also help reduce heart disease risks. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 154) Alcohol is another substance that needs to be consumed in moderation. Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risks of liver, rectal, breast, mouth, pharyngeal, laryngeal, and esophageal cancers. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 238) BODY WEIGHT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.

Being underweight can complicate the chances of survival if the person develops cancer, since it can be difficult to preserve lean tissue. Being overweight raises the risks of developing some cancers, including breast, colon, rectal, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic cancers. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 257) (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 45) For example, obese women have higher levels of estrogen, which may cause female reproductive system cancers. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 258) Obesity is estimated to contribute to 14% to 20% of all cancer related deaths.

(American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 45) It is best to keep your weight at a healthy level for your body type to get the most health benefits. Staying active is an effective way to keep your weight stable. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults practice at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 45) “Physical inactivity is linked to the major degenerative diseases – heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension – the primary killers of adults in developed countries.

” (Rolfes, 2011, p. 458) Staying active not only helps maintain your weight, but it can also protect against colon, breast, and other cancers. (Rolfes, 2011, p. 458) Staying active can reduce cancer risk by “improving energy metabolism and reducing circulating concentrations of estrogen, insulin, and insulin-like growth factors. ” (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 46) It can also reduce your risk of reoccurring cancer after a previous diagnosis. (American Cancer Society, 2013, p. 46) CONCLUSION Ultimately, whether or not a person develops cancer is a matter of chance.

A person can do everything “right” and still develop cancer, and a person can do everything “wrong” and never develop cancer. However, there are specific dietary choices we can make that help mitigate the chances of developing cancer, or help control it if we do develop it, and it is important that people know these facts so they can make healthy life choices.

Works Cited American Cancer Society. (2013). Cancer Facts and Figures. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society Inc. Rolfes, E. W. (2011). Understanding Nutrition (12th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

CANCER, a 6 letter word that makes our world upside down, but do you know what cancer is? More than one half of a million people are exposed to die of cancer this year. That’s more than 1500 a day. …

CANCER, a 6 letter word that makes our world upside down, but do you know what cancer is? More than one half of a million people are exposed to die of cancer this year. That’s more than 1500 a day. …

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