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Prevention of Cancer – 15 – Chemicals, Antibiotics, Meat

 Prevention of Cancer PART – 15

(All the articles published in past are available at

Question:  In last part, we discussed some very interesting points 1. Yog and importance of Thoughts – Vichar. How it considers these even more important than Asanas and Pranayam perhaps. 2. Role of Thoughts in creating healthy life, including cancer prevention. 3. How leaders and successful people are following these principles. 4. Hygiene and connection to ovary, endometrial cancer. 5. Television watching time per week and relation to rectal cancer. 6. Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes. Genes play a much smaller role, it is mainly lifestyle and environment. Hence little role for genetic testing in prevention of cancer.

Last point was from a very important paper by researchers at M D Anderson Cancer Center. You mentioned two main factors as Lifestyle and Environment. We have not discussed much about environment.

Ans: True. Before we go to environment, let us mention few remaining points related to lifestyle. Of course, we cannot cover all aspects. But I see a lot of patients and people in social circles who take antibiotics for very simple ailments like even ‘common cold’ or any seasonal issues or minor gastrointestinal issues too. This is also a change in lifestyle i.e. much less patience, too much reliance on medicines and going to the highest level immediately in hope of getting well very quickly, and not using home remedies. This happens with both children and adults. Many good doctors nowadays don’t prescribe antibiotics easily for simple ailments. More for fear of antibiotics resistance. However, there is an important study suggesting that antibiotics use too frequently may also increase risk of colon cancer, by altering gut microbiota. Antibiotics and risk of colorectal adenoma: Long-Term Use of Antibiotics Associated with Later-Life Colorectal Adenomas. Gut. 2018 Apr; 67(4): 672–678. Yin Cao et al from Harvard. This is a study involving 17,000 nurses from Harvard, followed for many years. And showed that more the use of antibiotics, higher the risk of adenoma in colon. As you may be aware that adenoma leads to colon cancer over several years.

Additionally, we have not discussed non vegetarian diet and cancer risk. WHO has declared processed meat as definitely carcinogenic in 2015. Processed meat means – preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or by adding preservatives. This includes bacon, ham, sausage, salami, hot dog… These are increasingly being used in our country as well, available in many fast food chains and other places. Hence it is important to mention. As per WHO, it is associated with Very high risk of colon cancer i.e. if use is over 50 g/day – increase in risk by 18%.  Possibly also associated with increased risk of prostate, pancreas, stomach. In addition, red meat also increases risk of cancer i.e. beef, pork, lamb – if use is over 100 g/day – increase in risk by 17%.

A number of young people, and even adults think that nonvegetarian food is a good source of protein, strength and is healthy. Please note that people in Western countries are turning to vegetarian food for health. Purely based on science, not religion.

Que: Thank you for those two important points. Now what about environment?

Ans: Since there is less in our hands with environment, we have not discussed it first. We can broadly divide this as 1. Chemicals 2. Solar and other radiation

A large number of chemicals have been identified as confirmed carcinogens for many years. And many other chemicals are probable, and possible carcinogens. One can see the website of IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) or American Cancer Society. These are chemicals used in industries, food related, water related, air pollution, inside our homes, pesticides and fertilizers, and more. Notable ones in this list are:

1.Tobacco 2. Alcohol 3. Areca nut (sopari in gujarati) 4. Fungus in food i.e. Aflatoxins 5. Diesel engine exhaust 6. Few pesticides such as lindane, arsenic, ethyelene oxide 7. Fertilizers that contain nitrates 8. Asbestos 9. Indoor combustion of coal 10. Leather dust 11. Opium 12. Outdoor air pollution (and the particulate matter in it) 13. Rubber manufacturing industry 14. Welding fumes 15. Wood dust. 16. Acrylamide – produced from cooking at high temperatures such as frying. 17. Petroleum refining 18. Spraying of pesticides 19. Hairdresser work 20. Very hot beverages above 65 degrees. 21. Vinyl chloride used in making common plastic. Used in packaging, furniture, pipes, construction material, automobile parts. And many other chemicals.

Interestingly night shift, processed meat, several viruses and bacteria that we have discussed earlier etc are also specifically mentioned in this list.

Ultraprocessed foods are cooked at short but very high temperatures. This leads to production of certain chemicals. Most packaged foods need such processing. Bakery products also need very high temperatures.

Also one must remember that it is very difficult to study if a chemical causes cancer. Since it requires study over a long time, and there are several factors that affect development of a cancer. Hence it is best to be prudent with use of all artificial material, all chemicals. Such as hair dye, artificial sweeteners, beauty products, food additives, cleaning materials, air freshners, perfumes, talc, plastic, insecticides…

There are about 2500 approved food additives, and over 10,000 other chemicals that may get into food during processing, packaging, and various forms of handling. A simple rule is: uncooked is safest, cooked at home is safer, cooked outside of home or packaged is least safe.

March 4, 2023

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