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Prevention of Cancer – 14 – Yog, Mind, Physical activity

                                                Prevention of Cancer PART – 14

(All the articles published in past are available at

Question:  In last part, we discussed some very interesting points 1. Physical activity encompasses not only how much we walk or run, but also, how we sit, sleep, have sex, talk, and most importantly how we breath. 2. Importance of right posture during sitting, standing, sleeping, eating etc. 3. Breathing and mind control. Yog and science of breathing. 4. Yog and Ayurved as complete lifestyle, not just physical activity.

You mentioned some fascinating points about lifestyle, Yog, breathing last time. And very briefly mentioned something about hygiene as part of Yog, and strong focus on VICHAR. Can you elaborate?

Ans: Yog is about influencing Body Mind and Spirit. Ashtangyog has 8 main components. Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharna, Dhyan, Samadhi. Note that yam and niyam come before Asanas. Yog considers them so important that they are a precondition for attaining the highest goal of Yog i.e. Samadhi. Even for people like us, where the goal is not Samadhi, but good health, it matters. Yam includes: Satya (honesty), Ahimsa (do not hurt others), Asteya (not to steal. To take what does not belong to us or earn by wrongful means is also stealing), Brahmcharya (sexual activity within boundaries set forth by religion), Aparigrah (do not store beyond needs). Niyam includes: Shauch (hygiene), Santosh (being content), Tap (controlling mind and indriya), Swadhyay (being regular in following healthy lifestyle for mind and body), Ishwarpranidhan (belief in superpower i.e. God).  Yam make us a good citizen as well.

As you can see, these 5 Yam and 5 Niyam are primarily related to mind. And as discussed last time, Hygiene is one of the pillars.

Que: Amazing. More so coming from a doctor. Most people, especially educated ones, consider it old fashioned to talk about these points.

Ans: True. But if you observe carefully, most of the successful people, happy people are following a number of these points in their life. And even talking about them. Without naming religion or Yog. For example, a doctor, a cricket star or a business leader or a movie star who has been a long term successful person (not short term successes), would be following Self discipline (Tap), Ethics, Regular consistent work, Being content, Prayer etc. Same way management experts will also talk about these for building a career or a company or relationships. Additionally, many starts, cricketers etc now practice Yog regularly, at least Asanas, Pranayam, Meditation.

It is just impossible to be happy healthy successful without these basic principles. Whatever name you may give. You may also observe whatever happened to those who did not follow these basic principles. Extremely unlikely they are happy healthy or successful in long term i.e. several decades.

We have already discussed in earlier episodes about how mental health is connected to cancer. Depression, obesity and cancer link is well known. But there are many other ways good mental health affects health. A very simple example is addiction to tobacco or alcohol from inability to manage stress or peer pressure or depression.

Que: Thank you. It is important that our young readers especially pay attention to this. Since doctors today are frequently unhealthy themselves.

Ans: We spoke about Hygiene as one of the pillar of Yog. And I came across a study recently that talks about how Ovary Cancer is related to hygiene. Mentioned in ASCO Post January 18th 2023 “A specific colonization of pathogenic microbes in the reproductive tract may be commonly found in patients with ovarian cancer, according to a new study published by Asangba et al in Scientific Reports

Similarly studies have found association between endometrial cancer and microbiota.

Que: I do remember you mentioning something like this may be possible when we were discussing hygiene and cancer. That not just gut microbiome but other areas of body may also have similar implication.

Ans: Since we were discussing physical activity originally, let me mention one more study about physical activity and cancer. Very relevant in today’s lifestyle. JNCI Cancer Spectr. 2018 Oct; 2(4): pky073. Long H Nguyen et al. This study found, after study of over 89,000 women, that watching television for several hours is associated with significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer, especially the rectal cancer. Weekly television watching time of over seven hours was associated with increased risk. And risk increased substantially with over 14 hours per week of television watching. This risk was independent of obesity and other risk factors. When we studied medicine, these cancers were seen at much later age. But now we see many patients before age of 50, without any genetic abnormalities.

This study adds to the data showing importance of physical activity, and even more so in younger age.

Today is World Cancer Day i.e. February 4th. I would suggest readers to read this article: From M D Anderson Cancer center talking about 90% of causes of cancer. Title is self explanatory: Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. They also argue that genetic testing is unlikely to be of big help in cancer prevention. Since 90% of risk is due to lifestyle and environment, rather than genes.

January 4, 2023 Dr Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 9998084001.                            Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad.