Skip to content

What we eat and how we live. Does this relate to cancer risk?

What we eat and how we live. Does this relate to cancer risk?

Cancer is predicted to be the leading cause of death in every country worldwide by the end of this century. Cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. There are more than 100 kinds of cancer. It is a term used for a health condition in which abnormal cells divide without control and invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other body parts through the blood and lymph systems.

Research does reinforce the adoption of healthy behaviours. Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity.

Well, through the ages and our recent past, we all witness dramatic changes in our lifestyle, some of which are also attributed to modernisation. Dating back, there were no ancient (paleo-oncology) reports of cancer at the Indus Valley Civilization sites or elsewhere in India except for some benign bone cancers (osteomas). Historical reviews show no word equivalent to cancer in any texts from the Vedic ages. The ancient medical classics of India have devoted little attention to cancer-like illnesses compared with more common diseases, suggesting a low prevalence of cancer in those times. The Siddha system of medicine, popular in ancient South India, mentions a cancer-like illness termed Puttru-Noi. Earliest clinical recordings of cancer were when, in 1840, F.H. Brett from Calcutta published A Practical Essay on Some of the Principle Surgical Diseases of India, which states that malignant diseases were prevalent in eastern India and in 1856, C. Morehead from Grant Medical College in Mumbai published a book on the diseases of India and documented cancer cases from western India.

Today we may not be wrong; if we wonder how much daily habits like diet and exercise affect our risk for cancer—more than what we might think. Research has shown that poor diet and sedentary habits are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that we can do something about this.

If you are thinking about how these lifestyle factors modulate cancer risk, we know from research that diet, physical activity, and weight control each have independent and potentially additive effects on these cancer-modulating biologic mechanisms. Healthy lifestyle choices promote a cancer-suppressing environment at the host level, at the cellular and organ level and in some cases at the genetic level, thus amplifying the potential to reduce cancer risk. Being overweight can increase cancer risk in many ways. One of the main ways is that excess weight causes the body to make and circulate more oestrogen and insulin, hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.

Tobacco use accounts for approximately 30% of cancer incidence and remains the single leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Many skin cancers are preventable if people protect their skin from sun radiation. Psychological factors such as chronic stress, depression, and social isolation have also been linked with recurrence, progression of disease, and survival after someone is diagnosed with cancer. Chronic stress affects multiple biological processes, and recent research suggests that stress modulates key cancer cellular pathways.

All these factors—diet, physical activity, environmental toxins, social support, and chronic stress are linked with one or more key biological processes necessary for cancers to form, grow, and survive. It is also more complex than we understand, and these lifestyle factors also interact with each other. For example, we know that lack of support makes it difficult to engage in healthy behaviours and manage chronic stress. Stress makes it difficult to engage in healthy behaviours and leads to relapses in tobacco use, modifies food choices, decreases the beneficial effects of healthy foods, diminishes interest in exercising, and disrupts sleep (sleep deprivation is also linked with increased cancer risk). Sleep deprivation modifies food preferences and metabolism, reduces energy for exercise, and is linked with being overweight and obese.

Therefore, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining and staying at a healthy weight throughout life.
  • Being regular with physically active routines
  • Following a healthy eating pattern at all ages.
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol.


    In summary, the role of diet, physical activity, and weight management in cancer prevention and survivorship is well established in terms of the evidence of its occurrence and presence (epidemiologic evidence) and probable theory of biological mechanisms. 

    Try Benefic nutritional supplements, which will help you improve your metabolism, weight management, sleep quality and regulate inflammation levels in the body.

    It would be worth it to challenge ourselves to lose some extra pounds, increase our physical activity, make healthy food choices, avoid or limit alcohol, and look for ways to adopt healthier practices for you and your family.

      author image
      Drawer Title
      Similar Products
      chatbot icon

      Chat with expert