In the journey from knowing to prevention and cure of cancer, Dr.Krishna Kumar Rathnam suggests changes in diet and lifestyle that prevent the disease

Cancer, once thought to be a disease of the developed countries is fast catching up in developing countries like India also. There is abundance of evidence that exposure to chemical carcinogens play a role in the development of majority of common cancers. Diet and inactivity accelerates cancerous transformation of normal tissues.

In this concluding article, we shall see how diet and life style changes can prevent or at least minimise the risk of cancer occurrence.

That flawless shiny red apple or for that matter your lush green lawn could make you a victim of cancer. Many pesticides have been classified as carcinogens—and the farmers who work closely with them have higher rates of skin, lip, stomach, lung, brain, blood and lymphatic system cancers. The shiny fruits that you buy may still be contaminated with pesticides and it is better to peel the coat off the fruit prior to eating.

Ground water contamination with arsenic and radioactive radium226 may pose health risks and it is advisable to have potable water checked by drinking authorities.

The solvent perchloroethylene used to dry clean delicate fabrics and various nitroso amines used in cloth dye industries can also cause various health hazards including cancer. This poses undue risk for people in this industry.

Environmental exposure to radon, lead, heavy metals and smoke dust increases risk of lung cancer.

It is a widely known fact that tobacco in any form causes cancer. Tobacco contains heterocyclic compounds, nitroso amines, heavy metals and noxious gases that can increase risk of cancers in oral cavity, lungs, windpipe, food pipe, stomach and various other organs of the body. More than two-third of the cancers in India are attributable to tobacco in some way or the other.

A “western” diet rich in red meat and saturated fats increases risk of cancer due to more oxidant stress.

Conversely, a “prudent diet” rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables would contain large amounts of natural antioxidants that might play an important role in preventing free radical formation and cancer . An abundance of soy products would increase the intake of isoflavones, thought to reduce the risk of cancer.

Dietary fibres in food increase the motility of intestines and decrease risk of colon cancer. The consumption of green tea by Eastern cultures which contains epigallocatechin gallate, have shown to be protective in cell culture and animal studies.

Similarly omega-3 fatty acids found primarily in fish and certain nuts and seeds, block inflammation signals that has been implicated in progression of prostate, breast and colon cancers. Avoiding deep-fried foods and added salt and sugar certainly prevents cancer. A study even relates increased intake of coloured and aerated drinks to pancreatic cancer.

Inactivity and obesity lead to insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances that can constantly trigger cancerogenesis. Regular aerobic exercise might control insulin resistance, reduce the resulting serum factors and thus reduce the risk for many different cancers. A study shows 25 % decrease in cancer among men and women who walk or cycle at least four hours a week. A brisk lifestyle can decrease lung, colon, prostate, breast and many other cancers in humans.

Mobile phones certainly do emit radio frequency waves. Research, however, has not yet conclusively proven the effect of this kind of electromagnetic radiation on cancerogenesis. Exposure high tension cables constantly may pose one at risk, however the relation of microwave towers and other forms of such radiation is still clearly not known!

Cancer is a disorder that is mostly due to acquired genetic changes and less familial. Many chemicals including ones in tobacco are implicated as causative agents. A healthy life style including dietary modification, tobacco cessation and aerobic exercises can prevent cancer in humans.

Asymptomatic people should follow screening techniques (like pap smear , mammogram, PSA testing, stool testing ) for early cancer detection.

Once detected everyone should make sure they are in right hands as cancer does not give many a second chance! So get treated properly! It is the responsibility of each individual to understand this and spread cancer awareness.


(The writer is Consultant (Haemato and Medical Oncologist), Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre, Madurai)

Feedback and queries may be emailed to


Soak up some sunFebruary 26, 2013

The chance of curabilityFebruary 20, 2013

The right move? February 10, 2013

Cancer cuisineFebruary 2, 2013