What is the link between Cancer and lifestyle

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s cancer registry data report [1], more than 8 lakh people lost their lives to cancer last year. What’s more, the report also states that the incidence of cancer cases in India are expected to rise by 25% by 2020.

This begs the question: Despite all that we know about cancer today, why are the incidents of the disease still on the rise? And most importantly, are we doing enough in our lives to ensure cancer prevention?

Cancer and its relation to lifestyle choices

To answer this question, we must look closely at the cause of the problem itself. Cancer, a term used to define a group of diseases with similar characteristics, can be caused by several kinds of factors. Some of these factors are biological and genetic in nature, while others are related to one’s work or living environment.

However, a considerable number of cancer risk factors are often related to an individual’s lifestyle. Unlike the other factors, cancer-preventing lifestyle choices can, in fact, be completely in an individual’s control. In fact, a study [2] by the British Journal of Cancer found that lifestyle changes could prevent as many as 4 out of 10 cancer cases in the British population. Here in India, the scenario is the same. Renowned oncologist, Dr. Shyam Aggarwal even went on record [3] to say that in India, “cancer has become more of a lifestyle disease today”.

Vishal was a chain-smoker and his smoking habit of 10 years only kept getting worse every year. Nikita was advised by her loved ones to follow a healthy, nutritious diet but she could not stay away from the temptation of convenient, processed foods. Raunak was a hard worker, but his days usually ended with him making up for his stressful days by indulging in generous amounts of alcohol. Apart from these bad habits, all three of these people have two things in common: one, all of them were eventually diagnosed with cancer, and two, each of their cancer diagnosis was preventable.

While we come across a host of lifestyle-related information on cancer prevention every day, there is still a lack of understanding of how certain lifestyle choices could turn into cancer risk factors. There are many things that an individual does not know about cancer. Let us take a look at some of the most common ones:

1. Smoking: This is the most commonly known cancer-causing lifestyle choice that the general public is made aware of and yet, largely remains ignored. The chemicals contained in cigarettes can enter our bloodstream and lead to certain cells becoming cancerous. It is estimated that every day, more than 3500 [4] people in India die due to tobacco use. Most habitual smokers start as early as 18, increasing their chances of contracting mouth, throat and lung cancer later in life [5].

2. Being overweight and lack of physical activity: While excessive body fat is considered dangerous for various health reasons, it is not commonly known that it also increases the risk [6] of an individual contracting several types of cancer. These include cancer of the stomach, bowel and in women, even breast cancer. Physical activity, particularly as we age, is essential in preventing not only cancer and obesity but also heart and blood pressure diseases. In the fight for cancer prevention, an individual must make sure that his or her body is fully equipped to deal with the threat of the disease.

3. Alcohol consumption: When it comes to cancer risk factors, this lifestyle choice tends to get far less attention than smoking, but can prove fatal anyway. Excessive alcohol consumption has been proven to damage [7 ]the body’s DNA and result in cancerous tumours, and while the risk is lower in moderate drinkers, the threat still persists. It can lead to cancer of the liver, oesophagus and larynx.

4. Unhealthy diet: As busy individuals, people often take their meals for granted. However, studies [8]have shown that certain food items that contain processed meat, sugar and refined carbs have been linked with increased cancer risk. On the other hand, certain types of foods such as flaxseeds, beans, legumes and nuts are more effective than others for the purpose of cancer prevention. These food items, along with fresh fruits and vegetables, must be integrated into a balanced diet to ensure [9] that the body receives adequate nutrition and is protected from the type of damage that may lead to cancer.

For most people, all of these lifestyle choices mentioned above might seem familiar. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and responsibilities, it becomes easy to fall back on certain habits that may be harming us in sinister ways. However, as we know, there is a clear correlation between the choices we make in our daily lives and the increased risk of contracting a form of cancer. So, in order to protect ourselves and our families from the serious disease that is cancer, we must adopt certain lifestyle changes and strive for a healthier future.

A critical illness like cancer can hit anyone anytime. It’s always good to be prepared. Buying a cancer insurance policy like the Future Generali Cancer Protect Plan would cost you only 2₹ per day for a cover of 10,00,000.