Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Cancer, prevention, diagnosis

According to the statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, about 75% of all adult cancers are associated with environmental factors, which include infectious diseases, exposure to radiations, chemicals, nutritional imbalances and tobacco. According to the Harvard Centre for Cancer Prevention, almost 50% of all cancer cases can be avoided with the help of lifestyle alterations and modification. These include the maintenance of ideal weight, quitting smoking, including exercise in daily routine, cutting down on alcohol consumption and other measures. These lifestyle modifications are effective in case of adult cancers; it is important to note that childhood cancers are not associated with lifestyle factors.

Life style changes, such as not smoking, are important.

Making changes in lifestyle and quitting bad habits:

It is a fact that cigarette smoke may be one of the main causes of cancer. Cancers related to cigarette smoke may be prevented simply by quitting. However, there are other uses of tobacco that can pose an equally large threat to the health of individuals. These include chewing tobacco, cigars and snuff, all of which contribute to cancer development just as much as cigarette smoke does. Another major cause of lung cancer is second-hand smoke.

Second-hand smoke is responsible for nearly 3,400 cases of deaths caused by lung cancer ever year in America. Tobacco is responsible for 90% of all lung cancers, as well as various different cancers of the body such as the cancers of the mouth, throat and the GI tract. The excessive use of tobacco is a major factor in the development of pancreatic, bladder, cervical, stomach and renal cancers. It is a fact that 30% of all deaths resulting from cancer are associated with the use of tobacco.

The second greatest causative factor of cancer after tobacco is obesity.  Obesity is responsible for almost 30% of all major cancers including esophagus, breast, endometrial, colon, and renal cancers. According to various studies, there may even be a link between obesity and the development of cancers in the ovaries, pancreas and gallbladder. Statistics have shown that obese women face a greater risk of the development of cervical, uterine, breast and ovarian cancers. Men too can suffer from various forms of cancer owing to obesity such as prostate and colon cancer. Two of the most significant factors that contribute to obesity are the lack of exercise/ physical activity and improper diet.

Scientists are now attempting to establish a definite link between physical activity, diet and genes – and how these factors contribute to the development of cancer.

There are a number of other preventable risk factors that are linked with cancer:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation and excessive sunlight.  For example, UV radiation is responsible for over 90% of all cancers of the skin, most prominently melanoma.
  • Infectious diseases: For example,  HPV, or human papillomavirus is responsible for causing cervical cancer and is also linked with cancers of the mouth.
  • Alcohol consumption is also considered to be responsible for increasing the risk of breast, pharynx, larynx, liver, esophagus, colon and stomach cancers.

Regular screening:

One of the most effective methods of reducing the death and suffering caused by cancer is regular screening of all healthy people regardless of whether they have been exposed to cancer causing agents or not. The early detection of cancer can make a great difference in terms of prolonging life, acquiring a cure and improving the overall quality of the patient’s life and allowing them to survive.  There are several screening tests that can confirm the presence of cancers in the body at an early stage – especially cancers of the oral cavity, skin, breast, cervix, colon, testes, and rectum. Since the development of screening tests, the prognosis of these cancers has improved significantly.

According to the American Cancer Society, if all Americans went for early screening tests, the 5 year survival rate of such individuals could increase to almost 95%. Apart from this, a number of major studies all over the world have confirmed that the early detection of breast cancer can effectively reduce the death rate resulting from this type of cancer for all women between the ages of forty and 69.

Among other highly effective methods of cancer screening is the Pap smear for the detection of cervical cancer, and colonoscopy for the detection of colo-rectal cancers. In the case of cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine that has been developed in recent years is also a preventive measure. The HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine prevents HPV infections in susceptible women, and may help prevent the development of HPV related cervical cancer.

Nutrition for Cancer Prevention

30% of all deaths resulting from cancer can be associated with diet during the adult life. Numerous studies have been conducted to establish a link between cancer and diet, but so far there is no specific nutrient or food substance that shows any contribution to the development of a certain cancer. There are, however, certain nutrients and foods that can combat cancer in various ways and studies are being conducted to confirm this possibility. According to research, there are a number of fruits and vegetables that can effectively reduce the risks of cancer development.

Alcohol and smoking in general contribute to the development of disease in the body, and these habits should be avoided as much as possible.

Addition Resources:

American Cancer Society. Access at:
This comprehensive site offers information for patients undergoing treatment, survivors after treatment, caregivers, health-information seekers, the media, and people interested in getting involved with cancer advocacy. The overviews and detailed guides for specific cancer types are very useful for newly diagnosed patients and people during treatment. The detailed guides are written in a higher reading level than the overviews and can be printed as complete booklets or by section. In addition, the site offers detailed information about treatment, supportive care, prevention, and early detection. The ACS News Cancer includes stories about new developments in cancer research and lay-language summaries of articles published in the scientific medical literature. This site also provides an interactive section for patients, a drug database, and cancer statistics.

National Cancer Institute. Access at:
At the core of this site is the Physician Data Query (PDQ@) database, which contains peer-reviewed summaries on cancer treatment, screening, prevention, genetics, complementary and alternative medicine, and supportive care. A registry of cancer clinical trials from around the world and directories of physicians, professionals, and organizations that provide cancer care also are part of the PDQ@ database. Each PDQ@ summary is presented in a health -professional version and a patient version and updated monthly. The site also includes the full text of NCI publications and the NC/ Dictionary of Cancer Terms, which contains more than 4,000 terms related to cancer and medicine explained in short, lay language definitions.

This article was originally published on 7/12/2014 and last revision and update of it was 9/14/2015.