Cancer Even If You Don’t Smoke Or Drink?

Nothing can shatter the world of an individual like being diagnosed with a critical illness. Particularly, when it comes to a disease like cancer that can strike in various sinister forms and be detected at various stages. On finding out about their cancer diagnosis, most people tend to look back at their lives to try to determine if they could have done things differently.

Regret is never useful, but whether a critical illness like cancer can ever be prevented is most certainly worth thinking about. And when it comes to habits like smoking and drinking, two of the factors that are often linked with cancer risks, it is natural to wonder if avoiding them can help avoid cancer as well. However, the discussion about cancer diagnosis and prevention can be more complex than just cutting two habits out of one’s lifestyles.

How is cancer related to smoking and drinking?

There is a variety of evidence that establishes a clear link between smoking and cancer risks. This is because tobacco smoke can contain upto 70 types of carcinogens ie. chemicals that cause cancer [1]. Studies have shown that as many as 9 out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused due to smoking and it can also lead to cancers in other body parts such as the kidneys, liver and mouth [2].

Similarly, although to a less severe degree, there is research that links alcohol use and cancer risks. This is because certain substances in alcohol can damage the body’s DNA, leading to abnormal cell growth and tumours [3]. This can lead to cancers of the mouth, throat, breast and liver.

For these reasons, drinking and smoking have been linked with cancer risks, and doctors advise avoiding the two habits to improve one’s chances of preventing cancer. However, those are just two lifestyle choices linked to cancer, and do not cover the entire range of factors that can lead to someone contracting cancer.

Other factors that can lead to cancer

Apart from smoking and drinking, there are various types of lifestyle choices especially in urban India that can also increase one’s chances of contracting not only cancer but also other types of critical illnesses. For instance, a diet full of processed foods, lack of physical exercise and excessive exposure to sunlight can place someone at a greater risk of cancer. Even if one does not drink or smoke, these lifestyle choices can lead one to contract cancers that are actually preventable [4]. This does not give you a reason, by the way, to stop trying to quit.

However, unfortunately, there are also other cancer risks and factors that are completely unpreventable, such as:

  • 1. Age: With advancing age, the risk of certain types of cancer tends to increase as well.

  • 2. Medical history: Inheriting certain types of genes can make one more likely to develop cancer than others.

  • 3. Virus or infections: Certain microscopic organisms such as HPV can cause specific types of cancer such as cervical and oropharyngeal cancers.

Refrain from smoking and drinking anyway

Jayesh lived a healthy life, unlike most of his peers. While they resorted to smoke breaks and after-work drinking to relieve their stress, he took to physical exercise. So, when at the doctor’s clinic he heard the word “cancer” in his diagnosis, he was stunned.

However, the doctor told him that while a lot of cancer cases today are preventable, his was not. According to Jayesh’s medical history, two of his relatives had also contracted the same type of cancer. Hence, his cancer was most likely hereditary. The doctor did, however, commend Jayesh on his lifestyle choices and told him that his diagnosis and treatment could have been much harder if he was a smoker or drinker.

Hence, avoiding tobacco, quitting smoking and alcohol use can have several advantages, even if it cannot completely eliminate all chances of contracting cancer. They should particularly be avoided if one already has cancer or is more likely than others to contract cancer. Avoiding them can also decrease the chances of contracting a critical illness like stroke, diabetes or blood pressure.

In such cases, smoking and drinking can even exacerbate the disease. According to certain studies, the chemicals in cigarette smoke can weaken one’s immunity system and make it harder for the body to fight cancer cells[2]. Both smoking and drinking can lead to the damaging of DNA, which can make the controlling of cancerous cell growth difficult.

Therefore, while it might not necessarily guarantee that you wouldn’t get cancer, refraining from smoking and drinking is always considered good medical advice.

Having said that, it’s always good to be prepared for an unsaid disaster, at least financially. Getting a cancer insurance is no harm to your pocket and would help you save a fortune that you might eventually end up spending on cancer treatment.