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Pollution and lifestyle; 2 main drivers of cancer

Posted:  Thursday, February 05, 2015

On the eve of World Cancer Day on February 4th, expert oncologists have provided a new reason to imbibe good lifestyle practices. According to them, besides random gene mutations, most cancers are linked to environmental pollutants and lifestyle. This suggests that cancers could be prevented to a certain extent.

According to experts, genetic reasons are responsible for only 5% of all cancers. Tobacco seems to be a leading cause of cancer in India, responsible for 40 – 50% of cancers of the oral cavity, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and urinary bladder. The incidence of cancer in India is however lower compared to the West.

The University of Oxford has been studying the reasons for the low rates of cancer in India since 2011. One distinguishing example is the colon cancer incidence rates. The West has a higher incidence of colon cancer at 60-70% whereas it is just 5% in India. The fibre rich diet of Indians has been cited as the protective factor in this case.

Certain interventions in the West have also wielded a positive influence. Quitting smoking has caused a decline in the incidence of some cancers, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Within 2 years of imposing a ban on hormone replacement therapy, there has been a decline in the incidence of breast cancer in the United States.

Some changes that occur in the critical parts of the DNA, near the oncogenes, are said to trigger uncontrolled cell growth resulting in the development of cancer. In India, cancer affects nearly 10 lakh people, of whom 7 lakh succumb to the disease. Although some cancers are idiopathic, the lifestyle related ones can be easily prevented by practising few good disciplined habits.

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