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Lifestyle-related Cancers: What we need to know

Growing concern because of its mysterious diagnosis, prolonged illness, and tedious treatment. There are multiple factors which can cause cancer, and many of us are unaware of most of these. Lifestyle modifications along with extreme environmental changes has led to the increase in the incidence of cancer in the last few decades.

Smoking and obesity have been proven to play a direct role in more than 40% of the cancer incidences worldwide. Along with these, alcohol, genetic mutations, infection, and environmental pollutants like asbestos too contribute to the risk.

Some modifiable risk factors and the cancers related to them are as follows:

Smoking: Tobacco has been proven a carcinogen for over decades and smokers have a 1 in 3 lifetime risk of dying prematurely from tobacco related heart diseases, cancers, or lung diseases. It causes cancers of the lungs, oropharynx (throat), larynx (vocal cords), esophagus (food pipe), kidney, bladder, colon (intestine), pancreas, and stomach. The number of cigarettes smoked per day and level of inhalation smoke is directly related to lung cancer and death. Those who stop smoking have a 30-50% lower 10-year lung cancer mortality as compared to the ones who continue to smoke.

Obesity: Obesity or an overweight, high fat diet has proven to cause various cancers, around 4% of cancers worldwide were accounted to obesity. These are mostly seen in 50-60 years of population but are rising amongst the young too. Obesity related cancers include colorectal cancer, female breast cancer, cancer of uterus or bladder, gallbladder. Also, cancers of esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, ovary, kidney, thyroid, and myelomas. Studies have proven that decreased consumption of processed food, meat and a high caloric diet can prevent such cancers. Adequate physical activity, a diet rich in fibre has been shown to have beneficial effects to protect yourself from such cancers.

Alcohol: Recent research has proven that alcohol is responsible for over 3 million deaths each year, worldwide, of which 4 lacs die due to cancer. Alcohol can increase the risk of 7 different types of cancer, breast, bowel, oral, esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal and liver. A greater risk is seen in regular drinking men and women. Superadded factors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity only led to increase in the risk of these cancers.

Pollutants: Air pollution, toxins from industrial waste, and highly processed foods, exposure to plastic too increases the risk of lung, stomach, colon cancer. Recent studies have proven that occurrence of lung cancers in non-smokers is linked to passive smoking, or air pollution. Drinking water exposed to heavy industrial wastes and metals can increase this risk too.

Hence, lifestyle modifications like regular exercise, cessation of smoking, moderate consumption of alcohol, fatty, processed food needs to be incorporated early, to prevent hazardous cancer or cancer like diseases.

Dr. Pranathi Reddy

Clinical Director – Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Rainbow Children's Hospital, Banjara Hills