What is Cancer?
Cancer is the Latin word for crab, meaning malignancy, due to the crab-like tenacity that a malignant tumor shows in grasping the tissues it invades. Cancer may also be called malignancy, a malignant tumor, or a neoplasm (literally, a new growth). It is an abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, metastasize (spread).
More dangerous, or malignant, tumors form when two things occur:
- a cancerous cell manages to move throughout the body using the blood or lymphatic systems, destroying healthy tissues in a process called invasion
- that cell manages to divide and grow, making new blood vessels to feed itself in a process called angiogenesis.
Cancer is not just one disease. It is a group of more than 100 different and distinctive diseases. Cancer can involve any tissue of the body and have many different forms in each body area. Most cancers are named for the type of cell or organ in which they start. If a cancer spreads (metastasizes), the new tumor bears the same name as the original (primary) tumor.
Cancer frequency does not equate to cancer mortality. Skin cancers are often curable. Lung canceris the leading cause of death from cancer for both men and women in the United States today.
According to the American Cancer Society, Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US and accounts for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that, worldwide, there were 14 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012 (their most recent data).
According to the somatic mutation theory, cancer originates when an otherwise ordinary cell undergoes a mutation. In 1953, it was postulated that if a large enough population of somatic cells lives for a sufficient length of time, gene mutations will occur in some of them. As the mutated cells proliferate, there is a finite probability that some of them will sustain at least a second mutation.
As the process of successive mutation and proliferation continues, cells eventually sustain enough genetic alteration to become autonomous and result in cancer. The accumulation of successive mutations would be expected to increase as a function of age and of the degree of cell proliferation. Early occurrence of cancer might be expected to result from exposure to mutagens as well as to agents that increase the rate of cell proliferation. The relevance of the somatic mutation theory to multistep carcinogenesis has been shown repeatedly to be the most probable explanation for the initiation of carcinogenesis(the genesis of cancer)
It has been shown that increased production of normal protein products of proto-oncogenes (e.g., c-ras) that have been amplified may contribute to the malignant phenotype.
Here are some key points about cancer:
- More than 575,000 people die of cancer, and more than 1.5 million people are diagnosed with cancer per year in the US. About one of every three Americans will develop some form of malignancy during his or her lifetime.
- Cancer is considered to be one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
- The financial costs of cancer in the US per year are an estimated $263.8 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.
- Vaccines such as the human papillomavirus (HPV)vaccine assist in preventing some cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and oral cancers. A vaccine for hepatitis B can reduce liver cancer risk.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the numbers of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 20 years.
- The most common sites of cancer among men are lung, prostate, colon, rectum, stomach and liver.
- The most common sites of cancer among women are breast, colon, rectum, lung, cervix and stomach.
Carcinogenesis is a chronic and multi-step process that results in malignancy/cancer. Malignant cells acquire the ability to invade or metastasize. Metastasis is often the first evidence of malignant disease. Some factors could aid carcinogenesis, and they can be broadly categorized into three, namely: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary factors.
The Primary factors are those that have direct impact in causing cancer, which include; radiation, industrial chemicals, bacteria, viruses etc. Chemicals that cause cancer do so either by; initiating a mutation or by promoting replication of a mutant. Both steps are required. Aflatoxin, nitrosoureas, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, safrole, nitrosamines, and certain epoxides are well-known genotoxins. The extent to which these chemicals bind DNA appears proportional to their carcinogenic potency. However, not every adduct, or even every mutation, initiates carcinogenesis. Mutations may be lethal, they may undergo repair, they may prove biologically irrelevant, or they may be replicated successfully to induce a cancer.
The Secondary factors include those that are hereditary in nature, and asides Retinoblastoma, no other form of cancer has been experimentally proven to be hereditary.
The Tertiary factors responsible for cancer development are the favoring factors that provide an enabling environment for other factors to initiate cancer, such as, food, air, cigarettes, etc.
Despite the grim statistics, doctors have made tremendous progress in attempts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. But instead of just waiting for new breakthroughs, you can do a lot to protect yourself right now.
- REGULAR CHECK-UPS
This includes the screening tests that can help detect cancer before it causes any symptoms. For men between ages 15 and 35, they need a periodic doctor's testicular examination along with regular self-examinations. All men older than 50 should have regular screening for colon cancer, and they should make an informed decision about testing for prostate cancer. Men with risk factors should begin both processes even earlier, and every man should routinely inspect himself for signs of melanomas and other skin cancers. Screening tests can help detect malignancies in their earliest stages, but you should always be alert for symptoms of the disease. Screening can locate cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer at an early, treatable stage. This is termed Cancer awareness, and it goes a long way in reducing your risks. Talk to your primary care doctor regarding the relevant screening tests. For a comprehensive list of screening tests go to https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/BrowseRec/Index/browse-recommendations
- AVOID HARSH PRESERVATIVES AND (BURNT) OVER GRILLED FOODS
Also, avoid as much as possible, canned or boxed meat and veggies, because a lot of them are preserved with carcinogenic chemical preservatives. The packaging materials sometimes leaches carcinogens into the food product. Do not cook oils on high heat. Low-heat cooking or baking (less than 240 degrees) prevents oils or fats from turning carcinogenic. Instead of deep-frying, pan-frying, and sautéing, opt for healthier methods such as baking, boiling, steaming, or broiling.
Meat and veggies that have been charred on a grill contain heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are cancer-causing agents. So, do not overcook your meats and veggies. It's best to also avoid burnt foods, such as barbeque, Salmon grilled with its skin, toast etc.
Processed, charred, and well-done meats can contain cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, which form when meat is seared at high temperatures, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which get into food when it's charcoal broiled. "The recommendation to cut down on grilled meat has really solid scientific evidence behind it," says Cheryl Lyn Walker, PhD, a professor of carcinogenesis at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. If you do grill, add rosemary and thyme to your favorite marinade and soak meat for at least an hour before cooking. The antioxidant-rich spices can cut HCAs by as much as 87%, according to research at Kansas State University.
- AVOID LONG HOURS UNDER THE SUN AND USE A SUNSCREEN BEFORE GOING OUT
Don't forget to put on a hat. Although melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, it's common in areas the sun hits more often. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that people with melanomas on the scalp or neck die at almost twice the rate of people with the cancer on other areas of the body.
There are 2 main types of UV rays that damage our skin. Both types can cause skin cancer:
- UVA rays age skin cells and can damage their DNA. These rays are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers. Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA, which has been found to increase skin cancer risk.
- UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage skin cells’ DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
- UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays, and most dangerous of all, but it is completely blocked out by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach the earth's surface.
Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer. Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer. Statistics show that, about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number-one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime, because UVA rays are present in daylight.
Melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers can be invasive. As well as growing across the surface of the skin, tumors can sometimes grow down through the layers of skin. If the tumor grows through the wall of a blood or lymph vessel, cancer cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body. This is why skin cancer is usually easier to treat successfully when it is caught at an early stage.
The amount of UV exposure a person gets depends on the strength of the rays, the length of time the skin is exposed, and whether the skin is protected with clothing or sunscreen. This is the reason why you should always try to wear protective clothing always when going outdoors.A Spanish scientist discovered that choosing the right color of clothing can help block out harmful Ultraviolet radiation. Red and Blue color have been discovered to reduce the risk of having skin cancer compared to wearing white and yellow colored clothes.
To avoid UV radiation harmful damage, protect yourself both indoors and outdoors, always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun rays are intense.
People who live in areas with year-round, bright sunlight have a higher risk of skin cancer. Spending a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation without protective clothing and sunscreen increases your risk. Sunscreens that are effective for adequate protection are the ones that have SPF value greater than 15, as maintained by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
A very common symptom of sunburn and precancerous cells is facial wrinkles and an effective natural skin care product for preventing and fighting off this menace is Everskin sublime Retinol eye wrinkle smootherat $74; it cleanses, exfoliates, treats, moisturizes and protects the skin. Rememeber to follow up with sunscreen. Take the skin quiz here to get product recomendation based on your skin type.
Moderate exercise such as light jogging, or walking about 15 minutes daily reduces the risk of breast cancer drastically by about 18%. Regular workouts lower your risk by helping to burn down fat, that would have essentially produced its own estrogen, which is a known contributor to breast cancer. Also, it reduces growth factor signaling proteins, such as, adipokines and hormones, such as, insulin, and this in turn helps to stop the cancer promoting processes in the cells.
A high-density mammogram reading greater than 75% is indicative of four to five times more risk of having breast cancer than a low density reading of the breast, so, essentially, you should check your breast mammogram density frequently based on the set guidelines.
Being overweight or obese accounts for 20% of all cancer deaths among women and 14% among men, notes the American Cancer Society. (You're overweight if your body mass index is between 25 and 29.9; you're obese if it's 30 or more.) Check out my blog on 7 easy ways to loose weight.
Plus, losing excess pounds reduces the body's production of female hormones, which may protect against breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Even if you're not technically overweight, gaining just 10 pounds after the age of 30 increases your risk of developing breast, pancreatic, and cervical, among other cancers.
Physical activity decreases the risk of colon, endometrial, and postmenopausal breast cancer. Three 10-minute sessions work just as well, but the key is to find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your daily life.
It is important to examine in more depth the effect of so-called visceral fat, or visceral adipose tissue (VAT), on cancer development. Visceral fat is the fat that deposits around several vital organs inside the abdomen, such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines. By contrast, subcutaneous fat is the fat that is stored just under the skin.
Sometimes, this fat is referred to as "active fat," because, it does not simply store energy but is also "metabolically active, secreting large numbers of adipokines, cytokines, and growth factors." It was discovered that it is fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2), found in belly fat that is responsible for causing cancer.
- EAT ORGANIC FOODS
Avoid chemically grown veggies especially those that are chemically treated with pesticides, as most pesticides contain dangerous carcinogens. For example, DDT. Non-organic meats and dairy products also have added hormones, antibiotics or chemicals that can cause endocrine-related harm and even cancer.
To lower your risk of many types of cancer—as well as other serious disease—aim to build your diet around a variety of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats. At the same time, try to limit the amount of processed and fried foods, unhealthy fats, sugars and refined carbs you consume. These are called the ‘Prevent cancer foods,’ ‘Prevent cancer diet’ or Prevent cancer recipes,’
Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients known as antioxidants that boost your immune system and help protect against cancer cells.
- Diets high in fruit may lower the risk of stomach and lung cancer. Eating oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C may also protect against esophageal cancer. Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava, and watermelon, may lower the risk of prostate cancer.
- Eating vegetables containing carotenoids, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, and squash, may reduce the risk of lung, mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers.
- Diets high in non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and beans, may help protect against stomach and esophageal cancer.
- Fiber, also called roughage or bulk, is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and plays a key role in keeping your digestive system clean and healthy. It helps keep cancer-causing compounds moving through your digestive tract before they can create harm. Eating a diet high in fiber may help prevent colorectal cancer and other common digestive system cancers, including stomach, mouth, and pharynx.
- Eating a diet high in fat increases your risk for many types of cancer. But healthy types of fat may actually protect against cancer. Avoid trans-fat or partially hydrogenated oil found in packaged and fried foods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, French fries, fried chicken, and hard taco shells. Limit saturated fat from red meat and dairy to no more than 10 % of your daily calories. Add more unsaturated fats from fish, olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds can fight inflammation and support brain and heart health.
- Consuming refined carbs that cause rapid spikes in blood sugar has been linked to an 88% greater risk of prostate cancer, as well as other serious health problems. Instead of sugary soft drinks, sweetened cereals, white bread, pasta and processed foods like pizza, opt for unrefined whole grains like whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal, and non-starchy vegetables. It could lower your risk for colorectal and prostate cancer as well as help you reach a healthy weight.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the biotech companies that engineer GMOs insist they are safe, many food safety advocates point out that these products have undergone only short-term testing to determine their effects on humans.
Some animal studies have indicated that consuming GMOs may cause certain types of cancer. Since most GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has substantially increased since GMOs were introduced. Some studies have indicated that the use of pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. However, research into the link between GMOs, pesticides, and cancer remains inconclusive.
- AVOID SMOKING
Oral, Lung and esophageal cancers are all potential risks for avid smokers, as well as passive smokers. Smoking is by far the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Thanks to years of research, the links between smoking and cancer are now very clear. Smoking accounts for more than 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths, and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases.
Many of these deaths are however preventable, by giving up smoking. Smoking causes more than 4 in 5 cases of lung cancer. Lung cancer survival is one of the lowest of all cancers.
Smoking also increases the risk of at least 13 other cancers including cancers of the mouth, pharynx (upper throat), nose and sinuses, larynx (voice box), esophagus (gullet or food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bowel, ovary, bladder, cervix, and some types of leukemia. Scientists have found that the number of years you spend smoking affects your cancer risk even more strongly than the number of cigarettes you smoke a day.
The serious damaging effects of smoking cannot be cancelled out by leading an otherwise healthy lifestyle, like keeping fit and eating healthily. The best way to reduce your risk is to give up smoking completely.
The main way that smoking causes cancer is by damaging your DNA, including key genes that protect you against cancer. Many of the chemicals found in cigarettes have been shown to cause DNA damage, including benzene, polonium-210, benzo(a)pyrene and nitrosamines.
This is already bad news, but it’s made worse by other chemicals in cigarettes. For example, chromium makes poisons like benzo(a)pyrene stick more strongly to DNA, increasing the chances of serious damage. And chemicals like arsenic and nickel interfere with pathways for repairing damaged DNA. This makes it even more likely that damaged cells will eventually turn cancerous. Smokers are also less able to handle toxic chemicals than those with healthy lungs and blood. Chemicals in cigarette smoke make it harder for smokers to neutralize or remove toxins, and can make their immune systems less effective too.
- TAKE MORE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID CONTAINING FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS.
Many laboratory studies suggest that n-3 fatty acids, especially the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have antitumor effects. The mechanisms involved in their anticarcinogenic action include the suppression of the biosynthesis of proinflammatory molecules, the influence on transcription factor activity and gene expression, the influence on signal transduction, the alteration of hormone-stimulated cell growth and the suppression of the production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species. In general, n-6 fatty acids and their derivatives promote the production of proinflammatory eicosanoids, whereas n-3 fatty acids suppress this action. In 2005, the first reports on epidemiological studies based on the assessment of the concentration of EPA and DHA in the erythrocyte cell membrane in individual study participants started to appear. Higher EPA (and possibly DHA) concentrations in the cell membrane, a validated measure for plasma fatty acids, is associated with lower cancer risk. These intriguing results are confirmed by the recently published huge European Prospective Investigation into cancer and nutrition (N = 478,040 men and women) and U.S.-based Physicians Health Study (N = 22,071 men). These studies have unequivocally confirmed that fish intake has a favorable effect on cancer risk. Avocados have been discovered to possess anti-cancer property.
“Prevention, they say, is better than cure,” therefore take heed and start living right now and be more conscious about your health and wellbeing. Stay away from the sad experiences of contacting cancer by combating the various factors that can trigger its development.
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