The number of people diagnosed with and die from cancer is increasing each year in India and across the world. The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon or rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer and liver cancer. Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide.
In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide. The number of new cancer cases per year may rise to 23.6 million by 2030. Undoubtedly, the percentage of people diagnosed with cancer has increased over the last few decades, but the main reason is that we have a longer life expectancy than in the past. Also, medicine has developed sensitive tests that diagnose cancer earlier. So, this can also make the statistics look even more pronounced.
There are several uncontrollable modern lifestyle factors which account for the increasing rate of cancers. While urbanisation and developments have brought about tremendous improvements in healthcare but as we struggle to cope with the pressures of work and survival today, we often compromise on a diet, exercise, rest and relaxation. Modern lifestyle allows us to make convenient but poor choices.
Factors that contribute to increasing rate of cancer:
- Regular consumption of alcohol is associated with lung cancer. While the consumption in moderation doesn’t pose any significant health risk but individuals who can’t limit alcohol intake are advised to abstain from alcohol altogether.
- Cigarette smoking is also a leading cause of lung cancer. Although there is a decline in the prevalence of smoking globally over the last few years due to concerted global efforts to counter the problem, smoking still poses a huge public health risk.
- Junk food and processed food are linked to lifestyle diseases like cancer. Poor eating habits and wrong food choices greatly increase the risk of various types of cancer. It includes over-consumption of certain foods, dietary deficiencies, excessive intake of saturated fats and refined or processed foods. Modern society diets are characterised by a high salt intake, increased consumption of fat, sugar, and animal produces. Also, urbanisation has led to an increase in the prices of fresh produce like organic fruits and vegetables while refined and processed foods are available widely at cheap rates. When it comes to food, people tend to make choices of convenience to cope with high-pressure jobs and fast-paced lifestyle.
- Almost all inhabitants of cities are engaged in sitting jobs that require little physical activity. Lack of physical activeness may also lead to cancer.
- Nowadays, people spend less time outdoors and instead watch television at home. They spend more time indoors sitting at computers and other gadgets having screens like tablets. Thus, exposure of the body to sunlight has become almost nil. A modern lifestyle that keeps people under artificial light for so many hours deprives them of sunshine vitamin or vitamin D. It can lead to mutated cells that can trigger cancer. Soaking up some sunrays may actually improve your well-being. At the same time, be cautious of sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays as they can cause skin cancer. Wearing a good quality sunscreen (year-round) is an important way to protect yourself. There should be balanced exposure. Overexposure and underexposure both can cause cancer. Apply common sense and make smart choices when you step outside in sun.
Cancers don’t develop overnight. Some preventive measures can significantly reduce cancer risk:
- Limit alcohol at moderate or lower level – a drink a day or under.
- Don’t use tobacco. Stay smoke-free or work to get smoke-free.
- Being overweight can increase the risk of many cancers. Keep your weight in check. Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes a day is one of the best ways to keep weight under control. Stand more sit less and be active.
- Eat a healthy diet including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Cut out fries, chips and sugary drinks. Consume a cup of low-fat yogurt for breakfast, a cup of low-fat milk with lunch and a cup of spinach in your salad with dinner. Eat resistant starch-rich foods like rolled oats, green bananas, and white beans. Eat superfoods like cruciferous veggies (steamed broccoli), Brazil nuts, garlic, onion, and artichokes. Drink four to five cups of green tea every day. Green tea has one of the most powerful anti-cancer compounds ever discovered due to the high number of antioxidants. Snack on kiwi and red grapes. Eat less high-fat animal protein, smoked and pickled foods.
- Get 15 minutes of sun a day. Almost 90percent of your body’s vitamin D comes directly from the sunlight. At the same time, stop tanning.
- Find your family history. You may be at high risk if you have one or multiple family members who develop cancer.
- Don’t forget screening time to time after a certain age. Though it can’t prevent cancer but it can help find cancer early when it is treatable.
We should modify our lifestyle to reduce the enhanced threat of cancer. It is the minimum cost that one can pay to live long and healthy.
Check with your doctor with any concern, stay cancer-free!