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Cancer Prevention

In recent years the World Health Organization has reported that one-third of all cancer cases are preventable. Studies have shown that small changes in daily life can be significant in prevention of cancer. A lot of data is conflicting - one study reports something as decreasing risk of cancer and another often advises against it. No consensus of opinion has been met to support everything but the following information has been accepted as helpful over most cases:

  1. Avoid tobacco – Tobacco use is considered the single greatest risk factor to developing cancer that is completely avoidable. The World Health Organization reported that of all cancer deaths reported worldwide 22% were directly linked to use of tobacco. Any type of tobacco use has been associated with cancers of the lungs, throat, mouth, esophagus, larynx, pancreas, kidney, bladder, stomach, and cervix. In 2004, a study reported that 70% of all lung cancers were directly tied to use of tobacco. Environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke) has been proven to be associated with lung cancer in non-smoking adults. A limited study from Israel suggested that women, who smoke during pregnancy, may have children who have a doubled risk of developing lung cancer when they reach adulthood. Smokeless tobacco has strongly been associated with increased risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas. Avoiding tobacco or stopping use of tobacco can be the most important health decision anyone can make.
  2. Alcohol use – Alcohol has been associated with cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, stomach, liver, and breast. The risk is in direct proportion to the volume of alcohol consumed. Risk is also increased when alcohol is mixed with the use of tobacco. Reports of studies have shown differences between men and women with men usually having more risk from heavy use of alcohol.
  3. Diet and physical activity – Obesity and inactivity has been linked with cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, prostate, and the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Healthy eating and exercise has been linked with decrease risk of these cancers and lower risk of heart disease. A recent study showed that physical inactivity on its own can increase risk of breast and colon cancer. A general rule of thumb is to include 30 minutes of physical activity in one’s routine daily.
  4. Infections – The World Health Organizations reported that 22% of cancer deaths in undeveloped countries and 9% in developed countries are due to infections. Infections such as hepatitis B & C have been associated with cancers of the liver; human papilloma virus has been associated with cervical cancer; and Helicobacter pylori bacterium associated with stomach cancer. In underdeveloped countries such infections as parasites can increase risk of bladder and liver cancers. The best approach is to try to prevent the infection and if the infection occurs seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  5. Environmental pollution – The World Health Organization in 2003 reported that up to 4% of all cancers are produced by pollution of water, air or soil. Promoting clean water, air, and soil projects can improve this risk.
  6. Ultraviolet radiation – UV light from the sun and tanning devices have been associated with increased risk of skin cancers. The types of cancers include basal cell cancers, squamous cell cancers, and melonomas. Using sunscreens and protective clothing are effective for decreasing risk.

Dietary supplements have been used in many cultures to decrease risks of cancer. Green leafy vegetables contain a chemical called flavonoids such as luteolin which have been shown to decrease cancer cell growth in animal models. Broccoli, celery, spinach, cabbage and green peppers contain luteolin. Cruciferous vegetables such a cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage also contain other flavonoids which also show decreased cancer cell growth but also suggest decrease risk of cancer invasion. Black raspberry has a high level of antioxidants called anthocyanins which have been shown to inhibit esophagus cancer cells in a study by Ohio State University. Mangosteen is a fruit grown on Pacific islands which contain xanthones that are toxic to cancer cells and may enhance chemotherapy when used for treating cancer. Selenium is an essential trace element which has been shown to reduce free radical damage to DNA, and enhance immunity which decreases inflammation. Low vitamin D levels have been associated with increased risk of cervical, breast, and colon cancers.

If you have question, talk to you doctor about your concerns.

More about Dr. Aulds

Donald G. Aulds, MD is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and currently serves as the Medical Director for both the Women's Center and the Best Start Program of North Alabama. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Dr. Aulds completed his medical education at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA and his Internship and Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Aulds has been an active member of the Huntsville Hospital Medical Staff since 1980.