By Clarissa Mathias, MD, PhD
ASCO International Affairs Committee member
It's a fact that living a healthy lifestyle lowers cancer incidence. For that, there are seven cardinal rules: no smoking, weight control, regular exercise, a healthy diet, limit alcohol intake, protect against sexually transmitted diseases, and caution against the sun. For each of them, a few considerations:
- Smoking: Smoking causes 30% of all cancer cases. Many types of cancer are related to cigarette smoking, including lung, head and neck, pancreas, bladder, and cervical cancer. At age 75, the risk of developing lung cancer for someone who has never smoked is 0.4%, while the risk for a person who has smoked is 15.9%.
- Weight Control: Fatty tissue can raise insulin growth factor and estrogen, which can stimulate the growth of abnormal cells in the breasts, uterus, and ovaries, predisposing tumor growth.
- Daily Exercise: Data shows that a 30 minutes of exercise daily decreases the rate of colon and breast cancers.
- Healthy Diet: A healthy diet should include vegetables, fruits, and cereals. Avoid red meat and saturated fats.
- Alcohol: Alcohol intake should be limited due to its function as a potent co-carcinogen that can be linked to breast, colon, head and neck, and esophageal tumors. Alcohol also depletes vitamin A and folic acid stored in the body.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Protection against sexually transmitted disease avoids contamination with human papilloma virus (HPV), which is related to cervical, vaginal, penile, and anal cancer. The hepatitis B virus, which can also be sexually transmitted, can lead to liver cancer.
- Sun: Overexposure to sunlight, especially sunburns during childhood, is linked to the occurrence of malignant melanoma in adults.
Each of these steps can reduce the risk of cancer, and these are points we should be making with our patients and their families at each opportunity.
Dr. Mathias is a member of NOB/Oncoclinicas Brasil.