Cancer - Is it a lifestyle disease?

Millions of people are being affected by cancer each year and it has been estimated that about eight lakh new cancer cases are being added each year in India alone. Cancers can happen in any part of the body and can affect both young and old equally. The exact cause of cancer is not known and theories project genetic and environmental factors.

But the World Health Organization categorizes cancers as lifestyle diseases and proposes that faulty lifestyle practices as the predominant predisposing factor for the occurrence of cancers. According to WHO, about 270 million people are susceptible to falling prey to this lifestyle disease and soon it will top the leaderboard as the number one killer disease of the year 2022.

Why is cancer referred to as a lifestyle disease?

Cancers are abnormal cells that could grow in any part of the body and the common causes of cancers are chewing tobacco, smoking, consuming excess quantities of red meat, alcohol, fats, sugars, and foods rich in preservatives, and addictive. According to Internal medicine doctors in Gurgaon, excess consumption of food that is rich in meat and low in fruits and vegetables can contribute to the formation of cancer. They also suggest that industrialization and the presence of excess pollutants in the water and air can also lead people to develop cancers. Thus, without any doubt, the causes of most forms of cancers are the faulty lifestyle habits of people, and no wonder it has been categorized as a lifestyle disease.

Relationship between lifestyle and cancer formation:

The biological mechanism that explains how cancers form is different for different forms of cancer. One of the major lifestyle causes that enhances the rise of cancers in India is the consumption of junk food and fast foods that are rich in trans fats, salt, sugar, and preservatives such as potassium bromate, monosodium glutamate, etc.  Even the fruits and the vegetables that we consume are infused with pesticides that could result in cancers of the cervix and the breast. Endometrial cancers and cancers of the colon are common in women who are obese. Insulin resistance in obese people is also known to foster the development of cancers. Thus the Internist in Gurgaon proposes that if obesity is a lifestyle disease, then cancers should also be categorized under the same category.

Cancers are preventable:

We can prevent the occurrence of cancers by leading a healthy life, by eating right, and by indulging in moderate exercises. Cutting down on alcohol and curbing smoking along with consuming a healthy and balanced diet will surely mitigate the risk of developing cancers. Many research papers propose that lifestyle changes could reduce the risk of developing cancers. About one-third of cancers can be prevented by consuming a plant-based diet that is rich in fiber content, such as fruits and vegetables. Apart from lifestyle interventions, regular screening for cancers, curbing habits like smoking and alcohol consumption, coupled with counseling with a physician can help prevent the occurrence of cancers altogether.


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