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Prevention of Cancer – 19 – Summary

Prevention of Cancer PART – 19

(All the articles published in past are available at

Question:  In last part, we discussed some very important points 1. Important to meet a genetic counsellor before doing a genetic test for prediction of hereditary cancer. 2. A negative test does not rule out risk of cancer. A positive test does not mean cancer will certainly occur. 3. Genetic profiles in healthy people, as part of health check up, trying to predict risk of future cancer, is to be discouraged. Can be done in highly motivated people only after genetic counselling to understand pros and cons. It can lead to anxiety, depression, pathological fear of disease. In addition, it can have impact on health insurance, and potentially even employment, and relationships. 4. Role of tests like BRCA and role of mastectomy in these people. Also role of other surgeries like removal of fallopian tubes, uterus, colon in some cases based on genetic test. We have covered a lot of points in the series.

Ans: Yes. But before we go to next topic, let us summarize this important topic for practical utility.

  1. Most of the points apply to prevention of most Non Communicable Diseases, not just Cancer. Means prevention of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, insomnia, depression, several menstrual disorders and menopause related issues, infertility in many cases, others.
  2. Prevention efforts provide maximum benefit if started from childhood. Younger the better. Risk of many common cancers is related to lifestyle in school and college years e.g. adequate sleep, diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use…Encourage outdoor sports, other healthy habits in children. Informal outdoor sports is equally good. Don’t worry about formal sports.
  3. In short, lifestyle of our grandparents was close to ideal. Including social connect, a bit of religion/spirituality, being content, early to bed and early to rise, physical activity as part of life not necessarily separate exercise, simple diet, how to eat, eat before sunset, adequate sleep, not to work on Sundays.
  4. Diet: simple, low calorie, low sugar, less fried. Variety only on festivals, marriages etc not daily. No or little processed foods. Raw foods better. Home cooked foods better. Restaurant less preferred. Daily dry fruits, and whole fruits preferred over fruit juices (even if fresh from home). Fiber is important component of food including from fruits. Reduce serving size. Seasonal foods. Fresh foods.
  5. How to eat: with someone, not alone. At same time every day. After cleaning hands and feet, prayer. While sitting. Chew slowly. Not in front of television or any gadgets. Dinner light. No late night snacks.
  6. Obesity is responsible for 40% of cancers in USA today. Depression and obesity have a strong correlation.
  7. Gut microbiota brain axis. Food habits as above, prevention of constipation keep this axis healthy. This axis controls hormones, immunity, mood. All related to cancer and several other diseases.
  8. Hormones and cancer. apart from diet, adequate sleep, exercise there is also impact of early childbirth, breastfeeding, number of children. Lifestyle during early years very important predictor of later life cancer.
  9. Alcohol. No amount of alcohol is safe. No type of alcohol is safe, including wine. For women, risk is significantly higher, including for risk of breast and other cancers. Tobacco in any form is a well known risk factor and largest factor for several cancers. Risk is much higher if tobacco use starts at a younger age.
  10. Late to sleep and late to rise disrupts biological clock and various hormones e.g. melatonin. This is an established risk factor for several cancers and other common diseases. A major preventable risk factor in today’s lifestyle. Night shift, started before age 30 is even higher risk. Early to rise reduces risk of breast cancer.
  11. Only about 5-10% cancers are hereditary. All others are acquired.
  12. Clean mouth, gums, teeth prevent cancers. Of not only mouth, but breast, lung and others. Also heart disease, stroke etc. Hygiene of other body parts also prevents other cancers e.g. ovary.
  13. HPV is the number one virus causing cancer e.g. cervix, mouth etc. Risk of HPV infection is much higher if multiple sexual partners. Not prevented by condoms.
  14. Good personal hygiene prevents several infections and related cancers. See part 11 of this series. Washing hands before and after meals, daily bath, hygiene of private parts, menstrual hygiene, pregnancy and peripartum hygiene, cooking related hygiene, avoiding eating food cooked outside of home, not eating from same dish…
  15. Physical activity in various forms, not just exercise. Yog as a complete lifestyle. Importance of Thoughts.
  16. Weekly television watching (likely mobile too) time is correlated with cancer risk.
  17. Avoid frequent use of antibiotics and other medicines for simple ailments.
  18. Packaged foods of practically all types, including so called healthy snacks, cereals etc have several chemicals, frequently high in salt, sugar, oil in addition. And are proven to be a significant risk for cancers and other diseases.
  19. No medicine for prevention of cancer. But vaccine against HPV, Hepatitis B.
  20. No fixed prescription for all. Diet, water amount, exercise… depends on individual, age, weather etc.

July 12, 2023 Dr Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 9998084001. Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad.

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