CANCER PREVENTION–KNOW THE RISK FACTORS FOR CANCER

There are many risk factors for cancer, and some of these factors—such as age and family history—cannot be avoided. Also, some risk factors are environmental, such as chemicals in the air, water, and food as well as chemicals that are contained in the products we use and work with daily. Fortunately, researchers continue to study environmental and chemical causes of cancer and report their findings to help us avoid these carcinogenic elements as much as possible.

The Role of Inflammation

In recent years, it has been noted that chronic inflammation plays a big role in the prevalence of certain cancers. While acute inflammation is a normal response to injury that leads to the healing of tissue, the inflammatory stage generally ends when healing is complete. However, a condition called chronic inflammation may occur as a result of the body’s response to such factors as pathogens and foreign bodies, viral infections, high cortisol levels, and stress. Such exposures may result in DNA damage and increase the risk for some cancers.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

Many risk factors for cancer are directly related to how we choose to live and what we choose to consume. In a recently issued report on its survey about cancer prevention awareness, the American Institute for Cancer Research noted that fewer than half of the survey’s 1004 respondents were aware of lifestyle risk factors for this disease.1 In an effort to increase the awareness of lifestyle risk factors, we list in the table below some common lifestyle risk factors and associated cancers. We encourage those at risk to engage in lifestyle modification.

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The Perils of Sugar

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for global taxation of sugary drinks by at least 20% in an attempt to halt the obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics throughout the world. In the United Kingdom (UK), this recommendation will be initiated in 2017 by introducing the 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Researchers at Oxford University believe that the tax will result in a 15% reduction in sugar consumption, thus preventing 180,000 people in the UK from becoming overweight or obese.

Added sugar is being referred to as the “new tobacco” because of its dangerous consequences to human health, namely, its direct relationship to the increase of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Legislation targeting the perils of tobacco was largely responsible for decreasing mortality from cardiovascular-related causes in the past 30 years. Therefore, it is a logical deduction that legislation will be the driving force to curb sugar consumption across the globe.

How much added sugar is needed in the human diet? Technically, none, because it does not meet any definition of “nutrient.” So sugar contributes “empty” calories to the body, as no nutrients are provided. Instead, added sugar does meet four criteria that justify it as a substance to be regulated: toxicity, potential for abuse, unavoidability, and negative impact on society.

How much sugar is safe? Researchers are strongly suggesting that WHO recommend that the daily intake of sugar be a maximum of 3% of daily calories, about three teaspoons. In the U.S., the average citizen consumes 12 to 21% of daily calories in the form of sugar. It is interesting to note that one can of regular cola alone contains nine teaspoons of added sugar.

When filling up on sugar, we may neglect to consume the nutrients—vitamins and minerals—that are essential for healthy living. For a complete analysis to determine if you have any nutritional deficiencies, contact our partner practice, RevitaLife Vitality Center of Sarasota, at 941-377-4555

Is Alcohol Consumption a Risk for Prostate Cancer?

A meta-analysis, conducted by a Canadian/Australian team, shows a strong relationship between the level of alcohol consumption and the risk for prostate cancer. The meta-analysis compared the risk of those who never consumed alcohol to those who drink varying volumes of alcohol, as shown below.

NOTE: Meta-analysis is defined by Wikipedia as “a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies.”

Level of alcohol intake Average daily alcohol consumption (in grams) Calculated risk for prostate cancer when compared to lifetime abstainers
Low (up to 2 drinks/day) 1.3 to 24 g 8% greater risk
Medium (up to 4 drinks/day 25 to 44 g 7% greater risk
High (up to 6 drinks/day) 25 to 64 g 14% greater risk
Higher (6 or more drinks/day) 65 g or more 18% greater risk

The authors of the meta-analysis, published in November 2016, conclude that prostate cancer should possibly be added to the list of seven cancers for which biological evidence exists that alcohol consumption is a risk factor. Those cancers are:

  • Pharynx
  • Larynx
  • Esophageal
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Female breast

Additional evidence suggests a link between alcohol and other cancers, especially when combined with other risk factors, such as smoking. The role of alcohol as a risk factor for cancer is not as clear as smoking, so people often do not make the connection. The mechanism is the easy entry of alcohol into cells where it is converted into acetaldehyde, a substance that can damage DNA and is known to be a carcinogen.

While some dispute the conclusion that cancer can be attributed to moderate drinking, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer stated in 2014 that regarding cancer, no amount of alcohol consumption is safe.