(NaturalNews) Why do people get cancer? Perhaps more significantly, why have cancer rates soared so drastically over the past century? Is it because of genes? Is it because of what we are eating today? Or are stressful lifestyles to blame? Others put forth that factors such as environmental toxins and electromagnetic radiation are the main culprits. The fact is, cancer is a multi-causal disease and probably a result of a combination of the abovementioned factors. Recent statistics released by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has estimated the role of diet and lifestyle, suggesting that about one-third of the 12 most common types of cancer in richer countries could be prevented merely through a healthy diet, physical activity and the maintenance of healthy weight. In poorer, developing nations, the proportion of cancers preventable through these steps was estimated to be about one-in-four.
Details and Findings of Study
The cancers in question included those of the bowel, breast, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, mouth / pharynx / larynx, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, stomach and womb. For these cancers, it was estimated that 34% of cases in the US and 39% of UK cases were preventable through the said steps. This implied that there was more room for improvement in these countries.
Zooming in, it was also estimated that more than 40% of breast and bowel cancer cases in developed nations could have been prevented in the same way.
And the abovementioned figures had not even taken into account the detrimental effects of smoking, which on its own is believed to be the main cause of about one-third of all cancers.
The report had been put together by a panel of 23 experts. Their study had been based on 10 recommendations released by the WCRF in 2007 on preventing cancer; those included daily exercise, avoiding processed meats, eating less salt, and keeping healthy weight. To arrive at the estimates, the team had looked at the biggest and most reliable research studies available which covered the 10 factors.
"This report shows that by making relatively straightforward changes, we could significantly reduce the number of cancer cases around the world," said Michael Marmot, the chair of the panel.
Importance of Dietary and Lifestyle Factors in Cancer Prevention
The possible causes of cancer were discussed earlier. What is clear about cancer is that it is certainly not an alien-like ailment which descended from the sky and invaded our bodies, against which we can do nothing for protection or recovery. "People think that somehow cancer comes from heaven, or Darwin, or from their parent's genes, but that's not always the case. A third are caused by smoking, and approximately a third are related to diet and physical activity," Marmot also said.
And scientific backing seems to be increasing. "The evidence linking diet, physical activity, obesity and cancer has become stronger over the last decade and this report can play a part in people adopting healthier lifestyles. After not smoking, it is clear that diet, physical activity and weight are the most important things people can do to reduce their cancer risk," said Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer.
Holistic Action is Needed
The experts have called for urgent action, especially in view of the escalating sedentary and obesity epidemics, graying populations as well as worsening food choices. "We are expecting a substantial increase in cancer rates with the ageing population, obesity rates soaring, and with people becoming less active and increasingly consuming highly processed and energy dense foods and drinks. The good news is that this is not inevitable," said Martin Wiseman, the project director.
But it is also quite clear that a holistic solution involving many parties will be needed if society is to stem the cancer epidemic. "There is no magic bullet, no one single fix to the problem. If we are to tackle the situation we need individuals, business and government to work together to encourage healthy lifestyles by promoting things like cycle lanes and food labeling," said Richard Davidson from Cancer Research UK.
The panel's report had put forth some 48 suggestions for improvement. Some include:
* Eating more fruits in place of unhealthy fatty foods. * Consumers to check labels to ensure foods being bought are healthy. * Lowering costs of healthy foods. * Schools and workplaces to stop providing unhealthy foods and to encourage exercise. * Cycling to work. * Governments to require widespread walking and cycling routes to be put in place; this will facilitate physical activity. * Improving access to sporting facilities.
Beyond Merely Prevention - Cancer Recovery
How about those who have already been diagnosed with cancer? Are such lifestyle and dietary changes too little, too late for them? Not according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridgeshire, which found that about 36% of men with aggressive prostate cancer could give planned surgery or radiotherapy a miss after making some basic dietary and lifestyle changes.
The changes, which included lowering salt intake, reducing alcohol consumption, eating larger amounts of oily fish, losing weight and undertaking moderate exercise, were able to inhibit or even totally stop their cancers' progression.
As we search for complicated answers to the cancer riddle, we should not underestimate the powerful role of factors which have been with us throughout human history - dietary and lifestyle habits.