Internet use may help you prevent cancer

Harold Mandel's picture
No smoking warning

Cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. There are deep concerns among us that many things we eat and contaminants surrounding us can cause cancer. There are also deepening concerns that not leading an active lifestyle can lead to cancer. Developing an awareness of what the risk factors for cancer are can help us prevent cancer. Interestingly, internet users have been found to be in the forefront of engaging in cancer prevention, clearly due to the wide availability of important information about cancer prevention online.

The World Health Organization notes that at least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable. Prevention offers us the most cost-effective long-term strategy to help control of cancer. Tobacco use has emerged as the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality across the world. Tobacco causes an estimated 22 percent of cancer deaths every year. And so a primary consideration in any effective cancer prevention program is to stop smoking and to avoid being around people who smoke.

Dietary modification has been found to be another very important approach to cancer control. There is an association between being overweight and obesity to many types of cancer, including cancer of the esophagus, colorectum, and kidney, breast, and endometrium. Diets which are high in fruits and vegetables appear to often have a protective effect against many cancers. Conversely, eating a lot of red and preserved meat may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Leading a sedentary lifestyle has also been found to be associated with a rise in incidence of many types of cancer. Regular physical activity in combination with the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, may markedly reduce cancer risk.

Alcohol use is also a risk factor for many types of cancer, including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colorectum. liver and breast. The risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol which is consumed. Therefore, if you are going to drink alcohol you should only do so in moderation.

Infectious agents have been found to be responsible for about 22 percent of cancer deaths in the developing world and 6 percent in industrialized countries. Viral hepatitis B and C are primary causes of cancer of the liver. Human papilloma virus infection has been found to cause cervical cancer. The bacterium Helicobacter pylori has been observed to increase the risk of stomach cancer. In many countries the parasitic infection schistosomiasis dramatically increases the risk of bladder cancer, while in other countries the liver fluke increases the risk of cholangiocarcinoma of the bile ducts. Preventive measures for cancer from infectious agents include vaccination and prevention of infection and infestation.


Environmental pollution of the air, water and soil with carcinogenic chemicals has been seen to account for 1–4 percent of all cancers. Exposure to chemicals which are carcinogenic in the environment can occur through drinking water or from pollution of indoor and ambient air. And greater than 40 agents, mixtures and circumstances leading to exposure in the working environment are carcinogenic to humans and are therefore classified as being occupational carcinogens. It has been well documented that occupational carcinogens are causally related to cancer of the bladder, lung, larynx and skin, leukaemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. Mesothelioma, which is cancer of the outer lining of the lung or chest cavity, has been observed to a large extent to be caused by work related exposure to asbestos.

Ionizing radiation has been confirmed to be carcinogenic to humans. Avoiding excessive exposure to ionizing radiation with the use of sunscreen and protective clothing are effective preventive measures. The knowledge on radiation risk has been primarily acquired from epidemiological studies of the Japanese A-bomb survivors.

It has been estimated that residential exposure to radon gas from soil and building materials causes between 3 percent and 14 percent of all lung cancers. This makes radon gas the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke. Improving the ventilation and sealing floors and walls can reduce radon levels in homes. Excessive use of radiological medical procedures is also associated with increased cancer risk. Unnecessary radiation doses, particularly in children, should be avoided.

The American Association for Cancer Research has reported, "Internet Users More Likely to Engage in Cancer-preventive Behaviors." According to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, older men and women who used the internet were more likely to participate in screening for colorectal cancer, participate in physical activities, eat healthily,
and smoke less, in comparison with those who did not use the internet.

In a large, population-based, cohort study of older adults in England, which has been called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, data from men and women aged 50 or older was collected. It was found that men and women who were consistent internet users were twice as likely to participate in colorectal screening as were nonusers. It was also observed that both men and women who used the internet consistently were also 50 percent more likely to engage in regular physical activity, 24 percent more likely to eat at least five healthy servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and 44 percent less likely to be smokers.

A definite association between internet use and cancer preventive behaviors has been established. Interestingly a dose-response relationship between internet use and cancer preventive-behaviors was seen. Intermittent internet users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors than people who never use the internet. And consistent internet users were more likely to have cancer preventive behaviors than intermittent users. The researchers have defined a “digital divide.” Internet use was found to be higher in younger, male, white, wealthier, and more educated participants and was lower in older, less wealthy, and nonwhite individuals who had physical disabilities.

It has been highlighted that policymakers should recognize the role which the internet use plays in influencing inequalities in cancer outcomes. Efforts should clearly be made to increase access for the underprivileged. This all really does make sense. Consider that anyone fortunate enough to be a regular internet user who has reviews this report may very well be on a path to more effectively preventing cancer.