‘The disease is no longer related only to genetic factors'

Oncologists on Friday asserted cancer was no longer related only to genetic factors but has to do a lot with personal lifestyles.

The assertion comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcement on the eve of World Cancer Day that more than 30 per cent of cancers can be prevented by lifestyle changes. The theme for this year's World Cancer Day Theme is “Together it is possible.”

Oncologists attribute tobacco and alcohol consumption as key lifestyle-related factors that cause cancer. But many are not aware that a diet low in fibre and fruit/vegetable intake is a culprit as well. So too are foods with high unsaturated fatty acids.

Pollution too

Absence of exercise, lack of sleep and inability to cope with stress too are danger signs. Pollution is also an added risk factor, said oncologists. Stressing on early detection to contain the spread of the disease, the doctors said nearly 70 per cent of cancers can be avoided with a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco/alcohol and exercising regularly.

Kidwai figures

More than 50 per cent of the 20,000 new cases that are seen annually at the state-run Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology are related to lifestyle, said Institute Director M Vijaykumar.

“Of the 20,000 new cases, nearly 3,000 are head and neck cancers, 2,000 cervical cancer and over a 1,000 breast cancer cases. More than 90 per cent of the head and neck cancer cases that we get are related to tobacco consumption,” Dr Vijaykumar said.

Consultant Radiation oncologist at HCG Cancer Hospital Kumaraswamy said lack of physical activity, sleep and a low-fibre with high-fat diet are also the key risk factors causing cancer.

Risk factors

“Lack of one's ability to cope with stress is another culprit. This causes immunological suppression and kills the natural cancer fighting cells. Lack of sleep changes the body rhythm and affects immunological responses,” Dr. Kumaraswamy explained.

Nirmala S, Radiation Oncologist at BGS Global Hospitals said early marriage, early sexual activity, promiscuity and early child birth are all risk factors for cervical cancer. This cancer can be prevented by avoiding exposure to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), she said.

Late marriage and late childbirth along with a high-fat diet are risk factors for breast cancer, Dr. Nirmala said.

“Use of same needles among the drug addicts puts them at risk of communicating diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV which predisposes them to liver cancer. This is also preventable,” Dr. Nirmala said.

Incidence in Bangalore

According to the National Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCR), Bangalore stands fourth in the incidence of new cases of cancer detected among men (113.4 per 100,000) after Delhi (124.3 per 100,000) and Chennai (121.1 per 100,000).

The highest is in Aizawl District of Mizoram where it is 249.5 per 100,000.

Among women, the number of new cases detected every year is 139.1 per 100,000 in Bangalore. This is the second highest after Aizawl where the incidence is 210 per 100,000.