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Notice The Carcinogens Around You

There’s nothing in your daily existence that cancer doesn’t touch. However, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

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Cancer is indisputably the most dreaded disease of the modern world. Many people who are diagnosed with cancer resign to fate and die mentally much before it happens physically even before putting up a fight. It takes time and courage to accept the diagnosis and the suggested prognosis thereafter. Many a times the patient is left confused wondering “why me?”, more so if he has led a life with little or no vices.

The top 5 most-diagnosed cancers in men are: lung, prostate, colon/colorectal, stomach, and liver.

The top 5 most-diagnosed cancers in women are: breast, colon/colorectal, lung, cervix, and stomach.

Cancer, to a large extent, is preventable. And being forewarned is being forearmed.

So, while a lot of research has been going on since many years, about what causes cancer, a broad classification could be on the basis of genetic, environmental, dietary & lifestyle and infectious factors. It is vital to identify and understand carcinogens – substances that can trigger cancer formation. These include:

- Tobacco : Includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff. Tobacco smoke contains nearly 70 cancer-causing chemicals inside it. And what’s worse is that passive smokers are also at an increased risk (20-30 per cent) of developing lung cancer  besides those who smoke their life away to death.

- Alcohol : When the body metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that may damage DNA, which may lead to cancer. Research has found that higher alcohol consumption implies a higher risk for developing certain kinds of cancer such as head & neck, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal cancer.

- Obesity : Obesity has been associated with an increased mortality from cancers of colon, breast(specially in post-menopausal women), endometrium, kidney, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, gall bladder & liver. Higher fat percentage, subsequent inflammation and elevated blood levels of insulin and Insulin-like growth factor may be the factors influencing cancer risk.

- Refined Sugar & Flours : It is a well-known fact that simple sugar is one of the best fuels for cancer. HFCS (High fructose corn syrup) which is a common ingredient in most processed foods is the worst form of sugar. Refined sugar intake leads to insulin spikes that feed the growth of cancer cells. Flours that are refined to the extent of being bleached also raise the blood sugar and consequently the insulin levels in the same way as sugar.  

- Processed & Barbequed Meats : Meats like ham, salami, bacon, sausages and pepperoni pose a bigger threat for cancer as compared to plant-based foods or lean meats that are steamed/ cooked. Barbequing and charring meats leads to release of a carcinogen called heterocyclic aromatic amines. When you grill red meat to the point beyond well-done, it changes the chemical and molecular structure of the meat. Just 50 gm of processed/ barbequed meats is enough to hike the risk of colorectal, pancreatic & prostate cancer by 18 per cent.

Repeated and regular consumption of very hot beverages(defined as hotter than 65 degree Celsius or 149 degree Fahrenheit) can lead to scalding of the esophagus and may trigger cancer growth. The risk of esophagal cancer is 5 times higher in those who also consume alcohol on a daily basis besides drinking boiling hot beverages.

- Plastic : BPA is a synthetic estrogen that's been used in many plastics and resins since the 1960s. And it is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it messes with the natural balance of hormones in our bodies. BPA resins can be used inside products like metal food cans as sealants, while BPA plastics can include water bottles and food storage containers. Prefer storing water and fresh produce in steel/ glass containers.

- Radiation : Radiations of certain wavelength can potentially cause DNA damage and cancer. These ionizing radiations include radon, X-rays, Gamma rays and other forms of high-energy radiations. Upto 10 per cent of total cancers can be attributed to radiation. This includes ultraviolet rays from the sun as well. Cancers induced by radiation include some types of leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancers, skin cancers, sarcomas, lung and breast carcinomas.

- Environmental Pollutants : Outdoor pollutants like carbon particles and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) and indoor fumes like those of formaldehyde, tobacco smoke and volatile substances like benzene, chemicals in cosmetics are linked to lung cancer and lymphoma.

- Stress : Qualitative analysis has divulged a positive association between stress and cancer, especially in context of stressful life events. Chronic stress can make the body more hospitable to stress by weakening the immune system.

- Several infectious agents have also been implicated in cancer. Evidence suggests that chronic viral infections are associated with upto one-fifth of all cancers.

There are researches done about the role of contraceptive pills in increasing the risk of certain hormone-receptor cancers, like breast cancer. However, there isn’t a conclusion as these pills may also aid in protection against certain other type of cancers.

There’s nothing in your daily existence that cancer doesn’t touch. However, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Mansi Chaudhary

Mansi Chaudhary is a practicing Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, Nutrigenomics Expert & a Holistic Cancer Coach. Her integrative approach towards health & Nutrition helps patients learn about Mindful Eating and manage lifestyle diseases, autoimmune conditions as well as manage weight effectively

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