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Cancer risk factors and lifestyle
Cancer claims more than 500,000 lives each year in the United States, and nearly nine million Americans are cancer survivors. Yet all cancers related to tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are preventable, and cancer experts believe lifestyle changes could prevent a third or more of most other cancers.
The first correlation between a controllable external factor and the development of cancer occurred more than a century ago with the observance that cigarette smokers died younger than nonsmokers. Researchers have since linked cigarette smoking to nearly a dozen types of cancer, notably lung, laryngeal, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers as well as myeloid leukemia.
Over the past 40 years scientists have established numerous connections between other external factors and different types of cancer. Many cancer prevention efforts today target those connections, most of which are lifestyle factors. Lifestyle factors associated with an increased risk for many types of cancer include
- Tobacco use (particularly cigarette smoking)
- No regular physical exercise
- eating habits that favor high-fat, low-fiber, and low fruit and vegetable consumption
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Though the links between cancer and some lifestyle factors are less than finite, health experts believe lifestyle modifications to minimize the roles of these factors may play in causing cancer could reduce the development of new cancers by about a third and are beneficial for health overall. Some cancers occur as a consequence of chronic infection, such as liver cancer that results from chronic hepatitis. Avoiding hepatitis through vaccination and appropriate preventive practices eliminates the cancers it might otherwise cause.
Other cancer prevention efforts target early detection of precancerous and cancerous conditions through screening methods. Early detection allows the highest success for treatment. Nearly all cervical cancer results from infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted sexually, and nearly all colorectal cancer arises from intestinal polyps. Screenings that detect precancerous conditions, such as intestinal polyps (colonoscopy) and cervical dysplasia (pap test), permit doctors to intervene before the circumstance evolves into one of cancer.
Cancer Prevention – Antioxidants and benefits of supplements
Some health experts advocate taking supplements of antioxidants (such as vitamin C and vitamin E), and in particular coenzyme q10, to boost the body’s ability to resist cancerous growth. Clinical research studies of coenzyme Q10 suggest various health benefits for this potent antioxidant, though to date those investigating the cancer-fighting capabilities of other antioxidants have failed to demonstrate such effect. Consuming substances that decrease inflammatory markers, such as fish oils and aged garlic, may also have preventive benefit.Page last reviewed: