Today, cancer is considered one of the deadliest diseases in the world, not because it kills the most people in the world, but because in most cases, it either goes undetected or by the time it’s detected, it is already too late and the disease has taken over the entire body. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), things are likely to get worse, for their recent study shows that rate people being inflicted with cancer is likely to rise by 70% in the next twenty years. A lot of cases involving delayed detection of the disease also come with its own set of myths and wrong assumptions. So today, we take a look at some of the true facts related to cancer and its possible prevention.
What is cancer?
Unlike other diseases which are brought on by bacteria or viruses, cancer occurs inside the body without such external agents. What basically happens in cancer, is that naturally occurring cells of the body start dividing aggressively, and over time, for a lump or a mass which is malignant in nature. If these lumps or tumors stay in one region of the body and do not interrupt any of the body’s natural processes, they are considered harmless. However, if they start spreading throughout the body and compromising with its homeostasis, they are called cancerous tumors.
What causes cancer?
Just like any other disease or malady, cancer too has some of its causes, but it is very hard to pinpoint what exactly causes cancer in an individual, and therefore, it is usually taken to be a combination of more than one factors. The primary external agents that cause cancer in the human body are called carcinogens. Some of the frequently found cancer risk factors are:
• Direct smoking: More than any other bad habit, smoking is one of the biggest cancer risk factors. Believe it or not, more people die from smoking than by overdosing on drugs or contracting HIV. Cigarettes or cigars contain more than seventy known chemicals that are carcinogenic. Apart from nicotine, cigarettes also contain ammonia, cyanide as well as acetylene. The primary effect of smoking is the deposition of a layer of tobacco on the C-shaped cartilaginous rings of the larynx. Apart from this, smoking is also the leading cause of lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, kidney as well as stomach cancer.
• Passive smoking: Passive smoking is when you do not smoke cigarettes directly, but inhale the smoke by being in the vicinity of people who are smoking. Passive smoking is even deadlier than direct smoking because when a person smokes, they take in the fumes through a filter attached at the butt of the cigarette, but passive smokers inhale it without any filtration. Therefore, it is important that you convince your friends and family not to smoke, not only for their sakes, but for yours as well.
• Ultraviolet Radiations: While sunlight is absolutely necessary for the body to get its required amount of Vitamin D, over exposure, especially in the light of the fact that the ozone layer is depleting causing entry of UV rays, can cause skin cancer. These UV rays alter the genetic makeup, thereby causing cancer of the skin and the eye. However, since they cannot penetrate deep into the body, they don’t cause cancer of other internal organs. Apart from the sun, UV exposure is also sustained from prolonged use of tanning beds and wielding torches.
• Hormones: Cancer of primary and secondary sex organs like the uterus, breasts, testes and vagina, are caused by hormones. For instance, extremely high levels of female hormones like progesterone and estrogen causes breast cancer as well as vaginal cancer. Similarly, high levels of the male hormone, testosterone, causes prostate cancer. Cancer of the bone as well as thyroid gland can also be caused by high hormone levels. Therefore, people are advised to undergo hormone therapy after much consideration.
• Alcohol: Although its complete effect on cancer cells remains unclear, alcohol is considered a carcinogen and contributes to 4% of all cancer cases. The major types of cancers that are believed to be induced by excess consumption of alcohol include breast cancer, bowel cancer and liver cancer. Alcohol is rich in ethanol, which on reaching our digestive system, is converted into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde leads to abnormal increase of liver cells and damages the cellular ability to heal itself.
• Genetics: When a normal and healthy gene undergoes at least six changes or mutation, they multiply rapidly to cause cancer in an individual. Whatever mutation the genes have to undergo, occurs during a person’s lifetime and their exposure to carcinogens. However, these faulty genes can also be passed down from one generation to another. Unlike popular belief, hereditary genetic cancer cases are less common that cancer acquired during a person’s lifetime.
Can cancer be prevented?
Preventing cancer is a much debated topic, in the light of the fact that you don’t know at what stage you can develop it. Nonetheless, doctors suggest a few lifestyle changes to decreases an individual’s chances of developing cancer.
• Give up smoking altogether. Even if you have to smoke, switch to alternative like electric cigarettes.
• Avoid chewing of tobacco.
• Avoid over exposure to sun and stop the frequent using of tanning beds. Whenever you go out in the sun, make sure to apply sunscreen, wear glasses and hats.
• Reduce your intake of alcohol containing beverages.
• Maintain a well-balanced diet and avoid canned and processed foods.
• Workout on a regular basis, so as not to become overweight.
• If you have any lump or pain in any part of the body, visit the doctor immediately.
• Consult doctors if you have a family history of cancer.
What are the foods that prevent cancer?
One of the most popular cautionary measures that doctors all over the world recommend, is to follow a cancer prevention diet. Although the power and effect of the following cancer fighting foods are much debated, they are not harmful in the least.
• Nuts: Vitamin E containing foods like peanuts, almond nuts, peanut butter have proven to be effective in preventing cancer of the lungs, colon and liver. Combined with rich anti-oxidants, they help repair damaged cells. Go ahead and chuck a few peanuts or almonds with your breakfast cereal every morning.
• Green Tea: A very high source of anti-oxidants, green tea is extremely effective in limiting the growth of malignant tumor cells in the human body and in some cases, it even helps reduce the size of the tumors. Switching your daily cup of coffee for a serving of green tea is a good habit.
• Garlic: A study conducted in 2011 suggested that eating a clove of garlic a day can help prevent the early onset of esophageal and stomach cancer. Apart from this, garlic also boosts the digestive process. If you can’t eat raw garlic, try incorporating them in your daily cooking.
• Citruses: Citruses like limes, lemons, tomatoes and grapefruit have a very high content of Vitamin C, which are suggested to help the body combat cancer cells and also prevent breast cancer. So go ahead and eat at least one citrus fruit a day.
• Green Leaves: Any green and leafy vegetable like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, cabbage etc. is rich in anti-oxidants, fiber and most importantly, beta-carotene. This combination is extremely effective in fighting stomach, breast as well as colon cancer.
• Berries: Berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are some of the highest sources of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are not only good for blood purification, but are effective in fighting against cancer cells, and even containing the spreading of the cells throughout the body. Incorporate berries as a part of a light lunch.
• Dairy products: Cancer patients have often been detected with low levels of Vitamin D in their body. Therefore, scientists believe that right amount of Vitamin D can prevent cancer. Some of the most common sources of Vitamin D are dairy products like milk, cheese and tofu, as well as animal proteins like salmon and beef.
• Tomatoes: Rich in lycopene content tomatoes are an effective way of battling prostate cancer. A recent study has shown that daily intake of tomatoes helps prevent skin damage and melanoma due to exposure to harmful ultraviolet radiations.
• Pomegranates: Recently branded as a cancer fighting food, pomegranates are high in ellagic acid, which helps destroy the carcinogens that may enter the human body from the surrounding environment.
• Turmeric: Whether eaten raw or in powder form, turmeric is a rich source of curcumin which is both an anti-oxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, not only do they heal damaged cells, but also help in its recovery.
Of course, this goes without saying that cancer prevention diet works only in so far that the individual leads a healthy lifestyle which does not consist of irregular sleeping patterns, bad habits like heavy drinking and heavy smoking.
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