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Deadly pancreatic cancer can be prevented by lifestyle changes

Harold Mandel's picture
Smoking causes cancer

A diagnosis of cancer is feared by people worldwide. Although treatment has been successful for a widening number of cases there are still many deaths from cancer daily. Some cancers such as pancreatic cancer are even more lethal than other types of cancer. Recent research has shown that many cancers including deadly pancreatic cancer can be prevented by lifestyle changes.

Many cancers are associated with less than optimum levels of lifestyle risk factors

Researchers have investigated the fraction of cancers occurring in the United Kingdom in 2010 that could be attributed to sub-optimal, past exposures of various lifestyle and environmental risk factors reported the British Journal of Cancer. Variables that effect risk for cancer which were considered in this analysis included:

1: Tobacco

2: Alcohol

3: Four elements of diet including consumption of meat, fruit and vegetables, fiber, and salt

4: Overweight

5: Lack of physical exercise

6: Occupation

7: Infections

8: Radiation

9: Use of hormones

10: Reproductive history including breast feeding

It was observed that exposure to less than optimum levels of these lifestyle risk factors was responsible for 42.7 percent of cases of cancer in the United Kingdom in 2010 for a total of about 134, 000 cases.

Tobacco smoking is the most important risk factor for cancer

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The most important risk factor for cancer in the United Kingdom has been found to be tobacco smoking which was responsible for 60,000 cases, or 19.4 percent of all new cancer cases, in 2010. There is a variation by sex of the relative importance of other exposures. In men the risk is associated as follows:

1: Deficient intake of fruits and vegetables (6.1 percent)

2: Occupational exposures (4.9 percent)

3: Alcohol consumption (4.6 percent)

In women the risk is associated as follows:

1: Overweight and obesity, because of the effect on breast cancer (6.9 percent)

2: Infectious agents (3.7 percent)

Forty percent of pancreatic cancers could be prevented with lifestyle changes

The researchers have observed that four out of 10 pancreatic cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes reports Cancer Research UK. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer. Yet, according to Cancer Research UK about 40 percent of pancreatic cancers could be avoided through maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking.

On a yearly basis about 8,800 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United Kingdom. Survival rates are extremely low with only three per cent of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer surviving this deadly disease for five years or more after their diagnosis.

There has been compelling evidence to suggest that some pancreatic cancers are associated with being overweight and to smoking. Sara Hiom, who is Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, has pointed out that cancer is a complex set of diseases. For many people lifestyle factors can play an important role. Lifestyle is one aspect of this disease which we can have some control over. Because pancreatic cancer has very poor outcomes it’s very important to consider the things people can do to decrease their risk for pancreatic cancer.

Steps can be taken to decrease the risk of developing pancreatic and other cancers

As pointed out by Professor Jeff Evans, a clinician and researcher at Cancer Research UK’s Beatson Institute in Glasgow, it’s devastating when patients with advanced pancreatic cancer have to be told that there are limited treatment options that can help them. Survival for pancreatic cancer remains surprisingly low and this has to be changed.

There is a vital need to find new treatments for pancreatic cancer and to develop ways to diagnose this disease earlier when surgery is more effective. In the meantime it is vital to remember that people can take steps to decrease their risk of developing pancreatic and other cancers. For a start they should not smoke and should maintain a healthy weight. Staying physically active and decreasing red meat consumption may also help.

The evidence of the association between lifestyle factors and cancer risk is compelling. Far too often people dismiss considerations of lifestyle factors as influencing cancer as being the ideas of left wing charlatans because after all something as simple as eating more vegetables and fruits does not appear to be as scientifically challenging as considerations of heavy doses of cancer chemotherapeutic agents and major surgery.

However, by the time patients make it to the stage of using these complex interventions it may be too late for them with many types of aggressive cancers such as pancreatic cancer. Prevention of cancer with a healthy lifestyle which includes good nutrition and frequent exercise is therefore essential.