Cancer develops when some of the body’s cells start to divide uncontrollably. Without appropriate and timely intervention they spread beyond their point of origin. Approximately 50% of humans will develop cancer. Apart from the denucleated red blood cell, cancer can originate in any cell type.
Risk factors for common cancers:
Breast cancer: Linked to advancing age, early onset of periods, late menopause, dense breast,having your first child after 30, genetics, not breastfeeding, chemical hair straighteners, hair dyes, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol usage, being overweight, hormone replacement therapy, red meats, fast foods, and processed foods.
Prostate cancer: One in 6 Black men will develop prostate cancer. In Black men, it’s likely to spread faster. Other risk factors include being over 55, having a positive family history, being taller, consuming dairy products, high calcium intake, exposure to significant levels of pesticides, being overweight, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Colorectal cancer: The following increase the risk – advancing age, family history, ulcerative colitis, unique genetic syndromes, alcohol, cigarette smoking, being overweight, sedentary lifestyle, animal fats, drinks and foods containing sugar, processed meats (hot dogs, corn beef, luncheon meat, ham, bacon), red meats (beef, pork, lamb, organ meats), a prior history of polyps, low vitamin D levels, diets low in fruit, vegetables, and fibre.
Pancreatic cancer: Risk factors include being over 45, tobacco exposure, diabetes, family history of pancreatic cancer, consuming unhealthy fats, processed foods, obesity, heavy alcohol consumption, pesticide exposure, untreated H. Pylori, Hepatitis B infections, and liver cirrhosis.
Lung cancer: Cigarette smoking accounts for 90% of cases. Other causes include family history, second hand smoke, diesel exhaust, asbestos exposure, previous radiation, protracted use of beta carotene (Vitamin A) – especially in smokers, air pollution, e-cigarettes, and talcum powder.
Stomach cancer: The following increase the risk – GERD (reflux), diets high in smoked and salty (e.g. pickled) foods, salt-preserved foods (e.g salt fish, pigtail, ham, bacon, etc), H. Pylori, being male, being overweight, being older than 50, family history, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, previous stomach surgery, previous adenomatous stomach polyp, pernicious anaemia, previous Epstein-Barr infection, blood Group A, animal fats, processed foods, red meats, diets low in fruit, vegetables, and fibre.
Skin cancer(s): Predisposing factors include chronic sun (UV) exposure, being immune compromised, fair skin, freckles, light-coloured eyes, blond or red hair, a great number of moles, a family history, and advancing age.
Uterine (endometrial) cancer: Risk factors include advancing age, being postmenopausal, high circulating oestrogen levels, being overweight, family history of uterine cancer, type 2 diabetes, hair products, high animal fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, early onset of menstruation (menarche), late onset of menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), tamoxifen, never being pregnant, a history of breast or ovarian cancer, and previous pelvic radiation treatment.
Non-Hodgkins’ Lymphoma: Predisposing factors include advancing age, being male, being White, family history, exposure to herbicides, and insecticides, methotrexate, autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, SLE, Celiac), previous chemo and or radiotherapy, a range of infections – Epstein-Barr, H. Pylori, HIV, HTLV-1 (endemic in the Caribbean) and Hepatitis C, being overweight, and some breast implant recipients.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: Predisposing factors include advancing age, having a positive family history, exposure to certain pesticides and herbicides, and having monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Risk factors include advancing age, being male, previous exposure to chemotherapy and radiation, exposure to benzene, cigarette smoking, exposure to vehicular exhaust, having another blood disorder, and Down Syndrome.
Recommendations for reducing your chances of developing and succumbing to adult cancers.
The following can significantly reduce your chances:
● Zero tobacco use.
● Avoid second hand smoke.
● Minimise alcohol consumption.
● Normalize weight.
● Exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes a week.
● Sit less.
● Eat more vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and foods with fiber.
● Consume more ground provisions (yam, tania, dasheen, eddoes, sweet potatoes,cassava).
● Increase intake of cruciferous vegetables (callaloo, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy).
● Consume foods high in lycopene (tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, carrots).
● Primarily eat fish and poultry (without the skin/ fat).
● Add turmeric to your cooking.
● Up intake of tropical berries (e.g. guavas, papaya, pomegranate, passion fruit, breadfruit,pumpkin).
● Avoid ultra-processed foods/ meats, red meats and fast foods.
● Use hair dyes and chemical straighteners sparingly.
● Get genetically tested if there is a family or personal history of breast, colon, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
● Avoid direct sun between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. If exposed to sun during this time cover skin and apply sunblock.
● Protect from sexually contracting HIV and Hepatitis B.
● Minimize consuming foods that increase chronic inflammation – sugar, sugary drinks, foods made from wheat flour, oils with Omega 6 fatty acids.
● Purchase primarily fresh and locally cultivated foods.
● Annual H. Pylori and Vitamin D level screening.
● Vaccinate against Hepatitis B and HPV.
● Get regular check ups.
● Frequency and type of health screening should be adjusted according to your personal and family’s cancer history.
Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale. For appointments: 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.