Habits that could increase cancer risks - Hindustan Times

Habits that could increase cancer risks

ByHindustan Times
Feb 06, 2024 12:59 PM IST

This article is authored by Dr Meghal Sanghavi, surgical oncologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.

When it comes to the association between habits and cancer, many people immediately think of smoking causing lung cancer or excessive alcohol consumption leading to liver issues. However, the link between certain habits and various types of cancer goes beyond these commonly known connections. It's essential to shed light on the less discussed factors that contribute to the development of different cancers, expanding our understanding and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Cancer (representative image)(Shutterstock) PREMIUM
Cancer (representative image)(Shutterstock)

  • Smoking, alcohol, and obesity: While smoking and alcohol are known for their association with head and neck cancers and liver cancer, respectively, they also play a role in other cancer types. Research has shown that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption contribute to breast cancer, cervical cancer, and various other forms of the disease. Additionally, obesity is another risk factor for cancer, with studies linking it to an increased likelihood of developing breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and kidney cancers.
  • Passive smoking: Passive smoking, often overlooked as an unintentional habit, is a significant contributor to cancer risk. Secondhand smoke contains numerous carcinogens, and prolonged exposure can lead to lung cancer, particularly in nonsmokers. Creating awareness about the dangers of passive smoking is crucial for the wellbeing of both smokers and those around them.
  • Excessive salt intake: While a diet rich in fish is often considered healthy, the way it is prepared can have unintended consequences. Excessive salt in the form of smoked or marinated fish can contribute to cancer risk. The high salt content, when consumed over the long-term, has been linked to stomach and gastrointestinal cancers. It's important for individuals to be mindful of their salt intake, even when consuming seemingly healthy foods.
  • Red and processed meats: Red meat and processed meats are frequently associated with gastrointestinal cancers, including stomach cancer. The compounds formed during the cooking or processing of these meats, such as nitrites and heterocyclic amines, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Limiting the consumption of red and processed meats and opting for healthier protein sources can help mitigate this risk.
  • Lack of physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle is a factor that often goes unnoticed in discussions about cancer risks. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of various cancers, including breast, colorectal, and endometrial cancers. Incorporating exercise into daily routines can contribute significantly to overall health and decrease the likelihood of developing cancer.
  • Pesticide exposure: Exposure to pesticides, commonly found in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, has been linked to certain cancers. The chemicals in pesticides may have carcinogenic properties, making it essential to choose organic produce whenever possible. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly can also help reduce pesticide residues.
  • Chronic stress: While stress is a part of life, chronic stress can have detrimental effects on health, including an increased risk of cancer. The constant release of stress hormones and the impact on the immune system may contribute to the development and progression of certain cancers. Incorporating stress management techniques into daily life, such as meditation and exercise, can help mitigate this risk.

Understanding the diverse range of habits that contribute to cancer risk is crucial for fostering a culture of prevention and health consciousness. While some habits, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, are widely recognised as cancer risk factors, it's essential to broaden our awareness to include lesser nown culprits. By making informed lifestyle choices and promoting healthier habits, individuals can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of developing various types of cancer and lead longer, healthier lives.

This article is authored by Dr Meghal Sanghavi, surgical oncologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai.

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