Some cancer risks are controllable
While there are many risk factors for getting cancer that are uncontrollable, such as genetics, aging and a family history of cancer, there are many more risk factors that can be controlled.
Tobacco and alcohol
By now, everyone likely knows tobacco use is one of the biggest risks for cancer. Research has shown tobacco contributes to cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix.
Excessive alcohol consumption is another risk. It doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol – beer, wine, spirits – it’s the amount of alcohol that creates the risk. According to a recent review of research studies, alcohol consumption has been shown to be a cause of seven cancer types – including those of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. There’s growing evidence to implicate alcohol consumption in the development of skin, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.
Weight and diet
After tobacco, obesity is the second biggest controllable cancer risk.
The impact of being overweight or obese is complex when it comes to cancer risk. Much of the research is observational and because obese or overweight people may differ from lean people in other ways than their body fat, it’s possible these other differences explain their different cancer risk.
According to a large observational study, when compared to lean people, obese people are twice as likely to develop cancer of the liver, upper stomach, kidney and esophagus. Other cancers that appear to be involved with obesity include gallbladder, colorectal and pancreatic.
Evidence suggests one of the reasons for the relationship between obesity and cancer is many people who are obese suffer from chronic low-level inflammation and inflammation has been tied to cancer. Additionally, fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen; high levels of estrogen have been associated with increased risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.
Besides quitting smoking, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are:
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.
- Be physically active on a regular basis.
- Make healthy food choices with a focus on plant-based foods.
Eating a balanced, thoughtful diet can help you keep a healthy body weight. Some foods, like processed and red meat, can increase the risk of developing some cancers. Other foods, such as fruits, vegetable and high fibre foods, can reduce the risk. You can get more information on food impacts on cancer here.
The evidence is strong. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates about 20% of cancers are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and could be prevented.
Are you at risk for cancer?
The wellness programs at Our Clinic may be able to help. Programs for weight loss and to quit smoking are available. An integrated team of healthcare professionals can develop an individualized program especially designed for you. For more information visit the website, book an appointment, or give us a call at 519-937-1881.