In the United States, over 1.7 million new cases of cancer were recorded in 2018. About 600,000 cancer patients died from the disease in the same year.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Despite breakthroughs in medicine and technology, cancer continues to prove difficult to stump out. However, scientists have learned a great deal about how the disease develops, it’s causes, and ways of prevention.
The best cause of action is to prevent cancer by learning potential cancer risk factors and avoiding them. Below is a list of nine such risk factors.
Infections account to about 15% to 20% of global cancer cases. Parasites such as viruses and bacteria can raise a patient’s risk of cancer in three possible ways.
Some pathogens may interfere with the cell signaling processes. They may also alter the genes that control cells’ growth and lifecycle. This means cells develop unchecked, causing cancer.
Some infections are associated with long-term inflammation. Inflammation leads to changes on the cellular level that may cause cancer.
Many infections such as HIV/AIDS also suppress the immune system. This hinders the body’s ability to detect and eliminate cancerous cells.
Immunosuppression is the reduction in immune system activities. It may occur as a reaction to some treatment, or it may be induced to assist certain medications.
Doctors may suppress a patient’s immune system after an organ transplant. This is aimed at preventing the body from rejecting the new tissues.
Research has shown that certain types of cancers developed by organ transplant patient can be attributed to immunosuppression.
A weakened immune system is a significant cancer risk. The immune system is responsible for detecting and correcting cellular anomalies. It is the body’s first line of defense against cancer.
3. Reproductive Hormones
Females produce natural sex hormones such as progesterone and estrogen in their ovaries. Their purpose is to trigger and control particular reproductive processes. Research has revealed that lengthy exposure to these hormones in high doses increases the risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
Excessive excretion to these hormones may be caused by early or late menopause and pregnancy. Treatments such as menopausal hormone therapy that alter the hormone levers are associated with several cancer risks.
Women are advised to learn the risks involved in hormone therapy.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to dealing with injured tissues. Once an injury is detected, the immune system activates accelerated cell division to replace damaged cells and repair the tissue. The inflammation stops once the tissue is healed.
In some case, the inflammation may not stop at the right time. This may be due to abnormalities in the immune system. Inflammation may also be triggered in tissues that are not damaged.
This is called chronic inflammation, and resilient infections could also cause it.
Chronic inflammation may cause unchecked cell growth or mutations that could lead to cancer. For instance, chronic inflammation in the bowels is associated with intestinal cancers.
Over 90% of all melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by excessive exposure to Ultra Violet (UV) light from the sun and other sources. Artificial UV sources include tanning beds, sun lamps, and nail drying lamps.
The sun is the strongest natural source of UV light. Lengthy and unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV light causes early aging, skin deterioration, and in severe cases, skin cancer.
UV light has enough energy to penetrate deep into the skin cells and cause DNA mutations. Accumulation of these mutations over time leads to disruptions in crucial physiological processes. This eventually cause different types of skin cancers.
6. Unlikely Cancer Risk Factors: Carcinogens
Carcinogens are cancer-causing substances. Exposure or consumption of these substances increases the risk of cancer.
It is easy to protect yourself from obvious carcinogens such as UV sources and radioactive material. However, it is difficult to detect and avoid carcinogens in the natural environment, such as air, water, and soil.
Depending on the surrounding area and industrial activities, the air may be contaminated with known carcinogens such as asbestos dust or arsenic in running water.
The list of human carcinogens is continuously updated as new harmful substances are discovered. Such is the case with the roundup lawsuit. Roundup was just recently found to contain dangerous carcinogens.
Obesity is a major risk factor of several health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, diabetes, and cancer. Most cases of obesity are caused by unhealthy lifestyles, genetics, and hormonal imbalances.
Fat cells may affect the processes that control cell development. They may also produce high levels of estrogen, which is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Increased levels of insulin may also favor the development of particular types of cancers.
8. Choice of Diet
Many studies over the years have looked into the relationship between diets and the risks of cancer. A generalized conclusion from a scientific perspective is that what one eats may directly or indirectly increase or reduce the risk of cancer.
Eating processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer. Rich foods and high-fat diets also increase the risk of cancer or lead to other risky conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
9. Alcohol and Tobacco
Tobacco is one of the leading causes of cancer and cancer-related deaths. Even secondhand smokers are at risk of various types of cancers, some of which include cancer of the mouth, lungs, stomach, throat, liver, and kidney.
There is no exception for smokeless tobacco either. Chewing and sniffing tobacco may cause gut cancers.
Alcohol increases the risk of liver, larynx, breast, and mouth cancers. The risks are many times higher for smokers who also drink heavily.
Prevention is the Best Cure
Many of these cancer risk factors are easily preventable by simply minding one’s lifestyle and staying cautious. Medical experts recommend balanced diets, physical exercises, and healthy lifestyles. This guarantees stable mental and physical health.
Keep away from health risk substances such as tobacco and risky medications and treatments whenever possible. Also, visit your doctor regularly for health checkups to detect early signs of cancer. Remember, early detection drastically increases the likelihood of curing the disease or preventing its spread.
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