Our best hope for preventing cancer through diet is to eat a wide variety of healthy, nutrient-dense plant foods.
Scientists estimate that 35 percent of cancers are related to nutritional factors. We must keep ourselves as healthy as possible and eating the foods that have been shown to help protect our bodies, especially our cells. There are foods that can damage body cells and sets them up for precancerous changes, while other foods protect the cells from damage. Cancer prevention depends on knowing which foods are good for you.
What Affects Cancer?
Our best defense against cancer is prevention. We must keep ourselves as healthy as possible and eating the foods that have been shown to help protect our bodies.
Cancer prevention is a great discovery of medical research. Medical students dream of finding a cure for cancer. Scientists hope that their work will help build the foundation for the cure to end this disease. Patients and family members pray for a future without cancer. While waiting for the grand cure to come, we will have to take care of our body and depend on its capabilities.
Having a healthy immune system can help spot and eliminate cancerous cellular mutations before the disease begins to spread uncontrollably in the body. Prevention is done by keeping our immune system healthy by eating the right kinds of foods that is known to help protect our body, especially our cells.
What Affects Cancer?
Cancer doesn’t turn up overnight. It is a result of a process that takes years or even decades before it manifests. The process begins as the normal body cells are being damaged by virus, radiation, toxic chemicals, inflammation, or randomly occurring errors in the DNA cells as we age. Every time a cell is damaged there is a possibility that its genetic structure may mutate. Cells can handle a certain number of mutations without serious consequences, but after a certain point, the mutations change their essential nature, turning them from normal body cells into precancerous cells. Precancerous cells can reside in the body without being much of a threat of becoming a cancerous cell, however they can be activated. This is the first stage of cancer development also called initiation. When they are activated, the cells begin to grow and multiply, this stage is called promotion. The third stage of cancer development is called progression, when the cells greatly multiply and begin spreading uncontrollably in the body.
The first step toward cancer prevention is to avoid what causes the damage and mutations in cells. Even if scientists don’t have all the answers regarding of what turns a precancerous cell into a cancer cell, it is widely considered that the causes behind the mutations can also cause the promotion and progression of cancer. The main cancer perpetrators are elaborated below.
It has been estimated that smoking has caused about 30 percent of all cancers in the United States. You probably know that smoking is directly associated with the risk of having lung cancer; furthermore it also increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix. Also, secondhand smoke increases the risk of cancer to those who live with smokers.
For moderate drinking, the recommended amount for men is at most two servings of alcohol per day and for women one serving per day. Too much alcohol intake has been associated with increased risk for cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, rectum, and liver. This is especially strong for breast cancer, even one drink or less per day has been shown to increase the risk for women. This is especially strong for women as they more prone to breast cancer, even one drink or less per day has been shown to increase the risk for women.
No one knows for sure what makes alcohol so dangerous, however there are theories formed about it. Alcohol is toxic to cells, also the by-products created when it is metabolized. Alcohol also increases hormone levels; hence it also increases the risk of hormone-related cancers like breast cancer. Additionally, alcohol makes cells more susceptible to other cancerous compounds. Smokers, who also drink, have a greater risk for developing mouth and throat cancers. Consequently, the more you drink and smoke, the higher you are at risk. Heavy drinkers who don’t smoke are at risk of head and neck cancers that is ten times higher than the risk for people who neither drink nor smoke. But if heavy drinkers also smoke, their risk jumps to about 150 times higher.
It has been known for years that radiation that comes from excessive exposure to X-rays can cause cancer. However, the amount of radiation we get from medical X-ray is very small and is said to contribute to about 1 percent of risk for cancer worldwide. Ultraviolet rays that come from the sun can penetrate skin cells and may cause mutations that can turn into skin cancer. Long-term and frequent exposure to sunlight causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are types of cancer that can be disfiguring but are rarely lethal. Severe sunburns, usually in childhood, can increase the risk of malignant melanoma, a more dangerous cancer later in life.
Viruses and Bacteria
Being infected with a few strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) can develop to cervical cancer. Hepatitis B and C bacteria can develop to liver cancer, and the H. pylori bacterium, the causes of stomach ulcers which can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. Some scientists believe that these infections are just a small part of something more dangerous and that there are many more links between cancer, viruses, and bacteria that are yet to be discovered.
It is not yet fully understood how some infections can lead to cancer. However, we do know that viruses can replicate their own DNA into normal body cells that alters the genetic structure of the cell. These bacteria can also produce toxins that can damage body cells enough for it to develop into cancer.
Aside from smoking, obesity is also a great risk factor for cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity contributes to the development of cancers of the colon, endometrium, kidney, esophagus, and breast (in postmenopausal women only). Gallbladder, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, as well as certain types of prostate cancer, may also be related, but the links are less consistent.
Fat tissues produce and store estrogen, so postmenopausal women who are overweight can have twice the estrogen levels of the usual and can potentially lead to the growth of estrogen-sensitive breast tumors. Other cancers may be due to the effects of high levels of insulin common among overweight people, the irritation of reflux disease, or inflammation caused by cytokines and related hormones produced in fat tissue.
Women who are exposed to high levels of estrogen for a long time has a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Estrogen levels rise up at puberty and remain generally high until menopause, so the risk is higher for women who begin menstruating early as before age 12 or who go into menopause later in life or those who are older than age 55. Furthermore, anything that can increase the levels of estrogen in the body is thought to also increase the risk for breast cancer. This includes having excess fat in the body, drinking alcohol, and taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause. Exposure to high estrogen levels is also linked to endometrial and ovarian cancers.