It is usually not possible to know exactly why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t, but research has shown that certain factors may increase risk.
They include things that one can’t control e.g. age and family history, and others like exposure to chemicals or carcinogenic substances and certain behaviour.
Screening, early detection and holistic treatment including spirituality, diet and exercise, as well as proper soul food, can all help people take back their health from cancer.
Your body, and in particular your immune system, cannot function at optimal levels if you are deficient of key nutrients and hormones, you are overweight or obese, you smoke or chew tobacco, you eat too many refined sugars and trans fats, or you’re ingesting toxins in your food, water, air, and medicines.
Although some of these risk factors can be avoided, others, such as hereditary factors and age cannot. Limiting your exposure to avoidable risk factors may lower your risk of developing certain cancers. Some of the most-studied, known or suspected, risk factors for cancer are highlighted below:
Advancing age is the most important risk factor for cancer overall, and for many individual cancer types. The median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66 years. But the disease can occur at any age.
For example, bone cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people under age 20, with more than a quarter of cases occurring in this age group. Ten per cent of leukemias are diagnosed in children and adolescents under age 20.
There is a strong scientific consensus of the association between alcohol and several types of cancer. The more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time, the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer.
Take alcohol in moderation. Moderate alcohol use means not more than one drink a day for women of all ages and men over 65, and not more than two drinks a day for men under 65.
Smoking is the number one cause of death by lung cancer in both men and women. Cigarette smoke contains carcinogenic chemicals, including arsenic, benzene and other toxins. The evidence is clear: If you’re smoking, you’re literally asking to get cancer, and the survival rate for lung cancer is very low.
People who are obese may have an increased risk of several types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, colon and rectum, among others. Conversely, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and keeping a healthy weight may help reduce the risk of some cancers. Healthy eating habits also lessen the risk of other illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
People with and without cancer differ in their intake of a particular foods. Some of the good foods are: Legumes, green tea, garlic, green vegetables and berries – especially cranberries, blue berries and blackberries. Some of the bad foods are artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, salts, flours, and some fats.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes early ageing of the skin and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. People of all ages and skin tones should limit the amount of time they spend in the sun, especially between mid-morning and late afternoon.
To protect your skin from sunlight, wear a hat with a wide brim all round that protects your face, neck, and ears; wear sunglasses to protect the skin around your eyes; wear dark-coloured and long-sleeved garments, and more importantly use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
Certain infectious agents, including viruses (such as human papillomavirus), bacteria, and parasites, can cause cancer or increase the risk that cancer will form. Some infections weaken the immune system, making the body less able to fight off other cancer-causing infections.
Generally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances go a long way to help keep cancer at bay. One step at a time, let’s make the necessary adjustments to live a long and healthy life.
Ms Ngutu is a Marketing Manager at Nation Media Group