In this article, you’ll learn about what causes cancer. Bedside Manners’ mission is to empower cancer patients and survivors through medical enrichment. Enjoy!
What causes cancer?
There are a variety of known risk factors that cause cancer. For instance, lung cancer is directly linked to smoking tobacco, although environmental toxins have been linked as well. Smoking is also linked to head and neck cancers, such as those of the mouth and throat. Smoking and second-hand smoke is a major risk factor in causing damage to our body’s DNA. As you learned in the post “What is Cancer,” damaging DNA can lead to normal cells becoming cancerous.
70% Due to Food, Alcohol, and Tobacco
Collectively this group is estimated to cause about 70% of cancers. This may be a surprise that this high of a percentage of cancers are caused by lifestyle. We discussed tobacco smoking above, now let’s look at alcohol and food. Alcohol and cancer have been linked although there have been many conflicting studies on if it truly causes cancer, especially when it comes to breast cancer. What is known is that stronger alcoholic drinks can lead to cancers of the esophagus, liver, and pancreas.
Junk foods, such as sugar sweetened beverages (SSB), have been linked to cancer. A recent study found that adding 100 milliliters of SSB a day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 18%. High sugar diets can cause blood sugar levels to increase, more fat being stored around vital organs (e.g. pancreas, liver), and increasing inflammation in the body. All of these factors have been linked to cancer (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190710193917.htm)
10% Due to Viruses and Bacteria
Cancer promoting viruses include the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the most common cause of cervical cancer. There are a couple of HPV virus types that can not only cause cervical cancer, but vaginal, vulvar and cancer of the penis as well. Certain liver cancers are caused by hepatitis virus types and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may be associated with Epstein-Barr virus.
10% Due to Heredity Factors
Hereditary factors, which can be linked to damaged DNA, account for 10% of all cancers. The most common hereditary cancer spoken about in the news is breast cancer. While the genes that cause breast cancer, brca1 and brca2, are estimated at causing less than 10% breast cancer, it gets a lot of news which makes it seem like these genes cause more disease than it does.
Other cancers that are known to be due to hereditary factors are familial polyposis coli which causes polyps in the large bowel and Li-Faumeni syndrome which causes people to be pre-disposed to more cancers.
5% Due to Environmental Factors
Environmental factors include x-rays and radioactive materials (e.g. radium), industrial cancer-causing agents, etc.
These other factors include things like aging, hormones impact of ageing and how this can create an environment, and race.
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