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Diagnosis of cancer at any age is earth-shattering as it turns your whole life upside down, changing things forever. You feel no more in charge of your life, and with each passing day, you sense death looming over you.
One in six deaths is due to cancer; it is a chief cause of death worldwide and affects men, women, and children alike. In 2020, 1.8 million new cases emerged, and there were 606,520 deaths, and about 16,850 were children. Cancer incidence is higher in men than in women by 19%; the mortality rate differs as 189.5 per 100,000 men lose their lives to cancer each year.
Knowing how and when someone contracts cancer is still a mystery. Scientists, however, have recognized various factors that can increase the chances of developing cancer. After studying large populations, scientists established these risk factors and understood how a particular factor potentiates cancer development. This research helps set up the probability of someone with that factor contracting cancer or not.
Avoiding these risk factors can help prevent cancer. Below are the verified and expected risk factors of cancer.
Numerous substances in the environment can put you at potential risk of cancer. These substances can be present in our foods, water, machinery, work environments, houses, and wastes. A carcinogen is a common term employed for substances that damage the DNA and impair metabolism, resulting in cancer. Some common carcinogens are asbestos, formaldehyde, aflatoxins, benzene, cadmium, and ethylene oxide. Each carcinogen causes different cancer. For instance, asbestos exposure leads to various types of Mesothelioma.
Steering clear of such substances is possible but to an extent, considering they are present all around us. Therefore, you should reduce the duration and degree of exposure to such carcinogens to reduce cancer risk.
Like many illnesses, age plays a vital role in cancer development. As a person ages, the body's cell turnover, immune function, and repair mechanisms decline. In addition, the exposure and accumulation of carcinogens in the body are also high compared to someone young. Consequently, the risk of cancer increases.
The median diagnosis age of cancer is 66 years old, and the incidence increases with age. Of 100,000 people aged 20, only 25 people may get cancer, while more than 1000 individuals develop cancer in 60 and above.
However, these numbers do not indicate that children will not develop cancer. Children are just as prone as adults are, as 1 in every 6500 children develops cancer. Children are most at risk of brain, kidney, retinas, and bone marrow cancers.
In 2018, around 13% of cancer cases were due to carcinogenic infections. Carcinogenic infections occur due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The most common infectious agents are Hepatitis B and C virus, H.Pylori, human papillomaviruses, and Schistosoma hematobium.
These agents weaken the immune system, produce inflammation, or alter the regulation of cell division and proliferation.
Human papillomaviruses are the leading cause of genital cancer. From cervical and vulvar cancer in women to penile and anal cancer in men, human papillomaviruses are the chief cause. Similarly, HBV and HCV are infamous for causing liver cancer, and EBV is notorious for causing Burkett’s lymphoma.
In addition, HIV has a prominent role in increasing the probability of Kaposi sarcoma due to impairment of the immune system. Infections of H.Pylori result in gastric MALT lymphoma and other stomach ulcers.
Vaccinations and regular screenings can help prevent this risk.
4.Obesity and diet:
Obesity is the mother of all diseases: it increases the chances of diabetes, heart diseases, and hypercholesteremia. Obesity is a menace to your health and is a considerable risk factor for cancer. Obesity puts you at risk of 13 different cancers, mainly breast, colon, kidneys, gallbladder, and uterus cancers. Obesity increases cancer risk due to alteration in normal body functions, improper secretion of hormones, accumulation of fats, and inflammation. Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is crucial.
Diet is a prominent determinant of cancer. Various food substances or variable quantities of macronutrients and micronutrients in food contribute to increased or reduced cancer risk. For example, diets rich in fresh vegetables and fruits contain antioxidants that reduce free radicals and oxidative stress within the body, resulting in lesser chances of cancer. On the other hand, a diet rich in unsaturated fats or meat can result in colon or breast cancer.
Food contaminates such as aflatoxins, pesticides, or insecticides can also promote cancer development. In addition, excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of cancer by 10%. Heavy drinkers are prone to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Inflammation is a normal response of our body to injury. It occurs in response to stress and is essential for protecting and restoring body tissues. However, inflammation is a short-term response and goes away once everything is back to normal.
However, chronic inflammation will develop if the body’s immune system keeps signaling for inflammatory cells without disease or injury. This persistent inflammation results in numerous body changes such as water retention, pain, deformities, and DNA damage. Various illnesses such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis that cause chronic inflammation increase cancer risk.
The risk of developing cancer due to radiation is probable. The radiations that can cause cancer are ionizing and non-ionizing.
Ionizing radiations include x-rays, gamma rays, and radioactive gases. Radiations can absorb into the body and interact with cellular atoms and molecules. These interactions result in the formation of ionic species and free radicals, both of which destroy the DNA structure and induce carcinogenesis.
Exposure to Gamma-rays from outer space or X-rays through nuclear power plants and atomic weapons can cause cancer. Similarly, X-rays from PET and CT scans may also contribute to cancer risk. Another prominent factor is radon gases, a radioactive gas produced because of uranium decay, which can cause lung cancer due to its accumulation in buildings and air.
In non-ionizing radiation, UV radiation is of prime importance. These radiations reach the earth from the sun and can also cause various skin cancers, particularly melanoma. UV radiations produce genetic mutations that result in excessive cell production. Therefore, the best way to prevent such cancers is by reducing sun exposure and using sunscreens.
Cancer is an aggressive illness that takes a toll on the patient and their family. It changes their lifestyle, perspective, and outlook on life. Keeping a check on cancer and being conscious of its risk factors is crucial. Therefore, you must avoid the possible threats and get yourself screened for cancer.