The importance of a healthy lifestyle in terms of cancer

Following watching a webinar held by UCL recently on cancer by Dr Ursula McGovern, a consultant medical oncologist, it led me to realise how many cases of cancer could have been prevented with simple lifestyle changes. Forty percent of cancer cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes. Obviously this is easier said than done and a number of factors could make these lifestyle changes much harder, however for many it could be done with dedication and hard work.

Eating enough fruit and vegetables daily ensure the body absorbs enough vitamins and minerals in order to function properly. The recommended amount is 5 fruits and vegetables a day, however this requirement is often not met by many. Every year 15,000 cancer cases could be prevented if a healthy diet was established across the UK, for example oesophageal cancer. This lifestyle change is in most cases a simple change, not including allergies, which therefore would make meeting the requirements difficult.

A well-known cause of cancer is smoking. This is for most difficult lifestyle changes due to the addictive nature of nicotine in cigarettes. It is estimated that 64,500 cases of cancer in the UK each year is caused by smoking. The ethical debates for whether smoking should be legal are still ongoing, however this would significantly decrease the cases of cancer each year (mostly lung cancer).

A lot of cancers are infectious. Twenty percent of cancers are infectious worldwide, this is a significant amount. If necessary precautions were taken to prevent the risk of spread of infection, this percentage could be much lower. It must be considered that much may have not been aware their cancer was infectious, or they had cancer at all. The UK has 10,000 cases of infectious cancer each year. Stomach and liver cancers are mostly caused by infection. Liver cancer is mostly caused by the hepatitis virus and its variants; however stomach cancer is largely caused by bacterial infections.

It has been estimated that 12,100 cancer cases in the UK could be prevented by minimising risks at work. This is often a very difficult lifestyle change, as this is how some people survive and rely on for money, therefore it is not easily interchangeable. An example of this is construction workers. Dust inhalation is seen to be a major cause of lung cancer as well as smoking, and studies have shown that face masks may be able to prevent the inhalation, in turn preventing lung cancer.

Therefore, in an ageing population the cancer cases in the UK are increasing. Simple to difficult lifestyle changes can be made in order to prevent more cases arising, however it is not as easily done as said.

Sources: - The Big C cancer talk UCL

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