One of the most common questions people ask is whether cancer is preventable and what causes cancer? The second part of that question is if it preventable, can it also be reversed if you already have a disease like cancer. There is a commonly held belief that most diseases, including cancer are genetically caused. While there are some cancers that have strong genetic links (i.e. BRCA1/2+ breast cancer) there are number of environmental factors that have been linked with cancer development. As of 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer identified 415 known or suspected carcinogens (cancer causing agents) (Clapp 2007). The world cancer research fund estimates that 30-40% of all cancers are preventable if food, nutrition and physical activity were improved. Another 20% can be attributed to infectious causes and an additional 10% to workplace exposures (American Cancer Society 2013, World cancer research fund 2007). This puts the cumulative risk at over 80% without considering other environmental and lifestyle factors. Other factors such as tobacco smoke (10-15%), alcohol abuse and other environmental pollutants raise the preventable percentage to well over 90%. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage attributable to each factor, there is no denying that nutritional, lifestyle environmental factors play a key role is cancer prevention while genetics play a much smaller role (Irigaray et al 2007).
Cancer is a difficult disease to treat because there are so many factors that can lead to the initial development. In many cases, the cancer develops over many years and is fueled by multiple factors such as poor diet, chronic exposure to carcinogens, excessive hormones, hidden infections and mental stress. Perhaps cancer is the best example of the statement “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” since prevention is much easier to achieve than cure in the case of a complex disease such as cancer. As stated by the World Cancer Research Fund, if we reduce or eliminate the factors that can lead to cancer in the first place, we can definitely prevent it. If cancer has already occurred then the same factors that caused the cancer also need to be addressed in the treatment and resolution. This should provide hope and motivation to cancer patients to change the environment that most likely led to the development of cancer. While there are no guarantees that cancer can be prevented or even cured, changing the internal environment of body, also referred to as the “terrain,” is essential to any cancer treatment or prevention program.
At pureBalance Wellness Centre we strongly believe in addressing the whole person as part of our cancer care plan. On top of cutting edge treatments, the foundations of health such as diet, mental attitude and exercise are essential components to preventing and treating cancer. We believe that you can greatly reduce the risk of developing cancer by staying active, eating a balanced diet rich is nutrients and low in processed foods, reducing exposure to harmful chemicals, minimizing stress and by keeping a positive mental attitude.
Clapp RW, Jacobs MM, Loechler EL. Environmental and occupational causes of cancer: new evidence 2005-2007. Rev Environ Health. 2008 Jan-Mar;23(1):1-37.
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2013. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2013.
Irigaray et al. Lifestyle-related factors and environmental agents causing cancer: an overview. Biomed Pharmacother. 2007 Dec;61(10):640-58. Epub 2007 Nov 20