This week the scientific journal Nature reports conclusions reached by a team of researchers regarding avoiding cancer. The researches believe that the vast majority of cancers are not “genetic”, like some believe, but rather arise from exposure to things like radiation and toxic chemicals.
As a healthcare provider I likely have a somewhat enhanced awareness the issues surrounding cancer and although my immediate family has been fortunate enough to avoid cancer (other than some skin cancer on the ear of a grandfather), my extended family has not been so fortunate.
I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who has not had cancer: Personally, I don’t want it. No thank you. I know enough about it to know that I don’t want anything to do with it, for many reasons, including:
- Its a waste of my time: I have better things to do. I love my life and just really don’t have time for the cancer experience.
- I’m not impressed with cancer treatments: Yes, the state of the art is improving on an ongoing basis, but that is because it drastically needs to improve. Again, this is an experience I prefer to avoid entirely.
Now from a superstitious point of view, some may say that I had better be careful what I say. OK, let me very carefully state this: I am very grateful that thus far and hopefully forever I am cancer free. I realize that I am not all powerful. If I’m going to have cancer, so be it. I will take it. However the reality that everything is not within my control is a poor reason to live recklessly.
While too many cancers are triggered by exposures seemingly entirely outside of our control (e.g., a baby being exposed to asbestos when the parents remodeled their house), up to 90% of cancer causes do relate back to things which we do have some control, such as:
- Smoking or other uses of tobacco products.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Carcinogens, e.g. solvents, asbestos, & certain drugs.
- Viruses, e.g. human papilloma virus which causes cervical, throat, & anal (rare) cancer.
- Poor diet & failure to maintain a healthy weight.
- Excessive sun exposure.
- Exposure to air pollution.
- Exposure to excess radiation.
Some degree of exposure to these known cancer triggers is inevitable, but its the magnitude of exposure which pulls the cancer trigger.
More proof that our choices determine our chances of avoiding cancer are multiple studies which demonstrate that when individuals relocate from a country with a low cancer prevalence to a country with a high cancer prevalence, those individuals then develop cancer at rates similar those in their new country. Also consider that:
- 75% of the risk of colorectal cancer is related to diet,
- 86% of the risk of skin cancer is linked to sun exposure, and
- 75% of the risk of developing head and neck cancers is due to tobacco and alcohol,
Every time I vicariously experience cancer, perhaps with someone I know or by reading a medical article, I am reminded how I really feel about cancer: NO THANKS.