Sadly, cancer rates are increasing, with 39.6 percent of people likely to develop cancer during their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute. However while cancer rates are increasing and have continued to do so for over three decades, the death rates related to them are dropping. In 1991, the death rates linked to cancer were at a peak high, however in the past two decades since then, they have steadily declined by 26 percent. This means that in the past 20 years, almost 2.6 million deaths have been prevented.
Although the death rates linked to cancer are slowing reducing, the rates of cancer diagnosis are not. It means that more and more people are developing cancer each year – that number is expected to continue rising over the next decade. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there has been plenty of research into ways that it could be possible to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Bearing that in mind, an increasing number of people are beginning to wonder what it takes to prevent cancer. While there is no ‘hard’ evidence regarding what works, there is a selection of research that indicates certain things that may potentially be successful when it comes to reducing cancer risk.
Is it nature or nurture?
It is not usually possible to determine why one person develops cancer and another may not. However, research has suggested that certain risk factors may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer during their lifetime. Of course, with that in mind, the question is: are these risk factors a result of nature or nurture? The truth is that it can be difficult to determine this in most cases.
There are some cancers, like breast cancer, for example, where a specific gene mutation can be passed down through the family, making breast cancer more likely. The genes that make breast cancer more likely if faulty and passed down through the family are BRCA1 and BRCA2. The normal risk of breast cancer in women is 12 percent, whereas, for women who carry one of these two faulty genes, the risk increases to between 40 and 85 percent.
Then there is the example of identical twins. Identical twins have an identical genetic makeup, which means that when one twin develops cancer, it cannot be due to genetics, it must be down to environmental factors.
While some cancers have a higher risk due to hereditary genetics, the majority of cancers are not. To develop cancer, usually, a combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play. However, there are certain cancers, such as malignant peritoneal mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, which is entirely environmental and linked purely to asbestos fibers – you can read more about this on medical websites.
To determine whether most cancers are a result of nature or nurture, there have been numerous epidemiology studies completed. In these studies, scientists look at a group of people, usually between 100 and 500 people, and attempt to ascertain why some people develop cancer and others don’t. These studies can not show that a certain substance causes cancer, as there are too many risk factors to take into consideration. However, they can suggest that a certain activity or food may be linked to higher cancer rates.
What does the research say?
The research regarding cancer prevention is limited, as it is difficult to determine the cause of cancer in many instances. However, what scientific research does suggest is that there are individual genes that make developing cancer more likely. As well as that, certain lifestyle choices also increase the risk of cancer.
Although some of these risk factors are avoidable, other ones are not. These risk factors include the following:
- Drinking alcohol
- Being overweight or obese
- Being exposed to dangerous substances, like asbestos
Is prevention possible?
The fact is that prevention is possible in some instances. It is not, however, possible to determine if the steps that you are taking will reduce your risk of cancer. You can choose to make lifestyle changes to lower your lifetime risk, but you can not know if these lifestyle changes have worked effectively.
However, what a lot of people believe is that even so, these are steps that it is worth taking if doing so will lower your cancer risk by even a small amount.
Bearing that in mind, you may be wondering what it takes to reduce cancer risk. Some steps are more obvious than others, such as choosing not to smoke or use tobacco products. Others are less well known. Most of the steps that you can take to reduce your lifetime cancer risk are linked to diet and health.
For example, it is a well-known fact that people who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of cancer, which is why losing weight and eating more healthily is recommended to reduce cancer risk. However, what is not known is if the increased risk that overweight and obese people have is due to the weight itself or the foods consumed. As to be overweight or obese, you usually would consume a range of unhealthy and processed foods, and processed foods have been linked to cancer in many instances.
Studies have shown that when it comes to reducing your cancer risk, one of the best things that you can do is follow a healthier diet. Clean eating, food that is free from processed foods, is recommended by doctors, as natural foods carry the lowest cancer risk. Studies have suggested that foods that are not organic or have been genetically modified, also carry a high cancer risk.
The truth is that when it comes to cancer risk, there is no certain way to reduce it. However, there are steps that you can take to make your chances of developing it less likely. You can do this by making lifestyle changes that improve your health. Of course, you cannot change your genetic makeup, but even so, it is worth taking these steps if doing so will help to reduce your chance of developing cancer.
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