What increases your risk of Cancer? - Integrated Cancer Care – Part 2


By Sally Pattison BAppSc, Adv. Dip. Nat, Adv. Dip. Nut

Cancer is not a single disease but a group of related diseases. Many things in our genes, our lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease our risk of getting cancer.

Scientists are studying many different ways to help prevent cancer, including the following:

Ways to avoid or control things known to cause cancer. Changes in dietand lifestyle. Finding precancerousconditions Precancerous conditions are conditions that may become cancer. Chemoprevention(medicines to treat a precancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting).

Infections: Human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk for cancers of the cervix, penis, vagina, anus, and oropharynx. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses increase the risk for liver cancer. Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk for Burkitt lymphoma. Helicobacter pylori increases the risk for gastric cancer.


Studies show that obesity is linked to a higher risk of the following types of cancer: Postmenopausal breast cancer, Colorectal cancer, Endometrial cancer, Esophageal cancer, Kidney cancer, Pancreatic cancer. Some studies show that obesity is also a risk factor for cancer of the gallbladder.


Diet is being studied as a risk factor for cancer. It is hard to study the effects of diet on cancer because a person’s diet includes foods that may protect against cancer and foods that may increase the risk of cancer.

Some studies show that fruits and non-starchy vegetables may protect against cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Fruits may also protect against lung cancer.

Some studies have shown that a diet high in fat, proteins, calories, and red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

“By eating the right amount of fruit and vegetables, it’s estimated that 5-12 percent of all cancers could be prevented”¹

¹International Agency for Research on Cancer (2003), IARC handbooks on cancer prevention, vol.8: Fruit and Vegetables, p.246. Lyon


Being exposed to chemicals and other substances in the environment has been linked to some cancers:

Links between air pollution and cancer risk have been found. These include links between lung cancer and second hand tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, andasbestos. Drinking water that contains a large amount ofarsenic has been linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancers.

Studies have been done to see if pesticides and other pollutants increase the risk of cancer. The results of those studies have been unclear because other factors can change the results of the studies.

Tobacco smoke: Tobacco use is strongly linked to an increased risk for many kinds of cancer. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of the following types of cancer:

Acute myelogenous leukemia(AML). Bladder cancer. Esophageal cancer. Kidney cancer. Lung cancer. Oral cavity cancer. Pancreatic cancer. Stomach cancer. Not smoking or quitting smoking lowers the risk of getting cancer and dying from cancer. Scientists believe that cigarette smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.


Studies have shown that drinking alcohol is linked to an increased risk of the following types of cancers: Oral cancer, Esophageal cancer, Breast cancer, Colorectal cancer (in men).

Drinking alcohol may also increase the risk of liver cancer and female colorectal cancer. (11)


Oestrogens affect the majority of breast cancers, known as oestrogen receptor (ER) positive cancers. Medications used to treat these cancers either target oestrogen production or oestrogen action, preventing oestrogens from stimulating growth of breast cancer cells. In older women, being obese or taking combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) long term may increase the risk of developing breast cancer.



Collective evidence points to a prominent role for chronic stress in cancer growth and metastasis. Sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis activation, along with related hormones, have functionally and biologically significant impacts on the tumor microenvironment. β-adrenergic receptor signaling pathways directly affect cancer cells. Stress hormones (e.g., norepinephrine and epinephrine) stimulate angiogenesis, cell migration and invasion, leading to increased tumor growth and progression. Dopamine retards tumor growth by inhibiting angiogenesis. Glucocorticoids inhibit chemotherapy-induced cancer cell apoptosis and promote cancer cell survival. Integrated pharmacological and biobehavioral interventions are being developed to target neuroendocrine dynamics in the tumor microenvironment and create more successful cancer therapies. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037818/


Genes play a role in the development of some cancers. The link is strongest for breast, bowel, stomach and prostate cancers. All cancer is triggered by altered genes. However, only 5-10 per cent of cancers are actually hereditary.

Current research suggests that environmental factors such as tobacco, diet, infection, alcohol, drugs, radiation and chemicals are more important than genetic (hereditary) factors in determining development of most cancers.

“The behaviour of a person's genes doesn't just depend on the genes' DNA sequence - it's also affected by so-called epigenetic factors. Changes in these factors can play a critical role in disease.”* Epigenetics involves genetic control by factors other than an individual's DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes can switch genes on or off and determine which proteins are transcribed.

* http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/epigenetic-influences-and-disease-895

Chronic Inflammation:

Inflammation is a normal physiological response that causes injured tissue to heal. An inflammatory process starts when chemicals are released by the damaged tissue. In response, white blood cells make substances that cause cells to divide and grow to rebuild tissue to help repair the injury. Once the wound is healed, the inflammatory process ends.

In chronic inflammation, the inflammatory process may begin even if there is no injury, and it does not end when it should. Why the inflammation continues is not always known. Chronic inflammation may be caused by infections that don’t go away, abnormal immune reactions to normal tissues, or conditions such as obesity. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer. For example, people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease, have an increased risk of colon cancer.


Prevention – isn’t it the best option?

Top 12 ways to prevent cancer:

  1. Limit carbohydrates – especially in form of fructose
  2. Avoid GMO foods
  3. Increase raw food (not all raw) – aim for around 1/3 of diet being raw
  4. Protein : Fat ratio – decrease protein to approx. 100g per kg of body weight max and increase good fats – avocado, nuts, coconut
  5. Avoid processed oils – increase Omega 3 and avoid hydrogenated oil
  6. Probiotics
  7. Daily Exercise –
  8. Daily Vitamin D
  9. Sleep
  10. Reduce toxins
  11. Reduce radiation exposure
  12. Reduce stress

Associate Professor Peter Baade, the Manager of the Descriptive Epidemiology Research Program at the Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, said that changes to diet and activity would have the greatest impact on bowel cancer, averting an estimated 10,049 cases, and could also prevent 7,273 cases of female breast cancer. (10)