Cancer is the second leading cause of death, behind heart disease and while no cancer is totally preventable, there are ways to help reduce the risk significantly. While factors like age and family history are things we can't change, we can kick bad habits that increase the chance of getting cancer. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience who shares ways on how to help avoid cancer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
"Occasional" or "Social" Smoking or Drinking
Marchese says, "Since the 1960s, smoking has been the primary cause of lung cancer in the United States. Tobacco use increases the risk of developing at least 14 cancer types and accounts for 25% to 30% of all cancer deaths. Although it's not well-understood how tobacco causes cancer directly, we know tobacco contains at least 50 carcinogens. The first reports of alcohol use linked to cancer were published in 1910. We now know alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the oral cavity, digestive tract, respiratory tract, liver, pancreas and breast. While many people only consume alcohol or tobacco products sporadically or in social settings, the cumulative adverse effects of these risk factors play a significant role in cancer development. It's also essential to consider the addictive properties of these substances, which can cause an "occasional" cigarette or drink to become more frequent. "
Poor Diet Choices
Marchese tells us, "Nearly 70% of colorectal cancer cases and about one-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to diet. Carcinogens in food from additives or cooking methods include nitrates, nitrosamines, pesticides and dioxins. Eating large amounts of red meat can increase your risk of cancer, including prostate, bladder, breast, stomach, pancreatic and mouth. Additives in processed foods, such as trans fats and refined sugars, have also been linked to several cancers. Most people may not need to change their entire diet, but making smarter food choices and looking out for problem ingredients on labels can significantly reduce cancer risk over time."
Marchese reminds us, "Reduced activity and poor diet significantly contribute to obesity, increasing the risk of several cancers. The American Cancer Society has linked obesity to colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic, gallbladder and liver cancer. Obesity contributes to between 14% and 20% of cancer deaths in the United States. For people with a high risk of diabetes or hormone fluctuations, obesity can cause other significant issues, potentially leading to organ failure or tissue damage."
"UV rays from the sun are the most common form of radiation exposure, and up to 10% of cancers may be caused by radiation," Marchese explains. "Cancers induced by radiation include leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid, skin, sarcomas, lung, and breast cancers. Skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, are significant hazards of prolonged sun exposure. However, other radiation sources should also be considered, including radon in the home or workplace and x-rays used in medical settings."
High Infection Risk
Marchese states, "About 18% of cancers worldwide are associated with infections. This percentage is higher in developing areas, such as some African countries. Viruses, such as human papillomavirus, Epstein Barr virus and HIV, are responsible for most cancers caused by infection. In more developed countries, human papillomavirus and the Hepatitis B virus are the most common sources of infection-induced cancers. Vaccines are available for both viruses, and reports have shown a drastically decreased risk of cancer associated with these viruses in vaccinated individuals. Other ways to mitigate the risk of infection-associated cancers include proper hygiene and good nutrition."