Cancer: What it really is and How To Prevent It!!
Every cell in your body is programmed to die. Sometimes your cells die prematurely if invading organisms attack them, or if they suffer some trauma or injury or possibly are constantly exposed to harsh chemicals. On the other hand, perfectly normal healthy cells must eventually die and each cell knows exactly the time and place. This process of cell suicide is known as Apoptosis (ay-pop-toesis) and it is essential to the cyclic rhythm of life and death in all living species.
Cancer is a condition in which the ability of the cell to commit apoptosis has been rendered inactive and the cancerous cell lives on forever. This new immortality gives the cell an increased ability to replicate itself. Wherever these cells are located, in the liver, the kidneys, the skin, the lungs or the breast, they grow at a faster rate than the cells in those tissues and organs. As a result, they consume the majority of the nutrients that go to these tissues and they keep on multiplying. While the rest of the cells in that organ or tissue continue to commit apoptosis and recycle themselves into new cells, the immortal cancerous cells keep reproducing eventually forming a tumour. As this tumour becomes larger and larger, it eventually will even develop its own blood supply so that it may get nutrients directly from your blood stream rather than depend on the leftovers from the other cells in the area. If untreated, this tumour eventually consumes the organ in which is situated and eventually will travel to other parts of your body consuming every nutrient until it ultimately causes the body to die because it has shut down or consumed all the vital organs of life.
The inability of a normal healthy cell to commit apoptosis and die is caused by a genetic mutation of that cell. Carcinogenic substances are defined as those that cause genetic mutations from constant exposure causing the cell to lose its ability to commit suicide and thus live forever, replicating uncontrollably. These substances may be viruses, atmospheric chemicals, radiation, tobacco or almost any foreign element that can cause this genetic mutation. If you developed Breast Cancer caused by a genetic mutation of your BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 or P53 genes before you had children, your offspring would inherit the defective gene. Of course with cancers of the lung, liver kidney, skin etc these cancers would not be passed on to your children. When you examine the causes of all the different types of Cancer, you will see that most of them are preventable.
Cigarettes contain between four and five hundred chemicals, nearly all of them harmful to your health. Whether the smoke is inhaled directly into your lungs or whether it is inhaled as secondary smoke, the risk of cell damage is equal. Nearly all these chemicals are carcinogens and constant exposure eventually leads to genetic mutation of cells in the lungs. These cells lose their ability to die or commit apoptosis and thus your new genetically modified cells are now immortal and reproduce uncontrollably producing tumours in your lungs. Lung Cancer is usually caused by inhalation of cigarette smoke and in 2004, approximately 21,700 Canadians were diagnosed with this disease and 18,900 of them died. Lung Cancer is the most lethal of all cancers and obviously can easily be prevented.
Obesity is the leading cause of breast cancer in women and the leading cause of prostate cancer in men. In fact, obesity has replaced cigarette smoking as the number one cause of cancer. After a women reaches menopause, it is natural for her body to produce less estrogen as her days of ovulating and child production are over. In fact, once a woman reaches menopause, estrogen becomes carcinogenic to her body. However, fat cells produce large amounts of estrogen and this excess of estrogen is not normal for your body and eventually causes a mutation in certain breast cells whose job is to suppress the growth of tumours. Now that the BRAC-1 and BRAC-2 genes have suffered a mutation from the excess estrogen they no longer have the ability to suppress tumours leaving overweight female at great risk of developing breast cancer. In 2004, 21,200 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,200 died from it. These tumours are easily detected and because women fear breast cancer much more than the lethal lung cancer, your survival rates are really quite good. Imagine an overweight woman who smokes and is still taking hormone replacement therapy drugs. All these actions are totally preventable.
In obese males the fat tissues cause an increase in estradiol levels particularly in the prostate region. Once again a genetic mutation takes place giving the cells in the prostate gland immortality. Prostate cancer does not usually shorten your life span because the prostate gland is an enclosed organ and the cancerous growth is usually restricted to that area and does not grow rapidly because it is limited by space and nutrients. However in 2004, 20,100 men were diagnosed with this disease and 4,200 of them died. A low fat diet that includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables, exercise and a reasonable weight will certainly help prevent most types of cancer, especially cancer of the prostate gland.
The Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) is primarily responsible for causing cervical cancer. Although this cancer is rapidly declining because of the advent of the Pap test, it is a sexually transmitted virus that affects sexually active women who have unprotected sex. Also in the area of sexually transmitted viruses is HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which does not cause cancer itself but because it destroys your body’s T cells which kill off foreign invaders, then any and all attackers are free to roam your body and eventually cause some forms of cancer. Both of theses conditions are easily preventable with the use of a condom.
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are two viruses that have such a severe affect on the liver that they, in some cases, can be attributed as the cause of liver cancer. Because Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses can never be eliminated from your body, eventually they will cause cells in your liver to mutate and once again we have apoptosis along with uncontrollable growth that results in tumours. Hepatitis B can be prevented by immunization and Hepatitis C can be prevented by being careful not to mingle your blood with the blood of a carrier, using condoms, not sharing toothbrushes, intravenous needles and generally exercising hygienic caution.
Most Canadians like to eat meat and of course we prefer to eat it cooked. When we smoke meat or barbeque it, we produce carcinogens. However the total carcinogenic effect of meat is removed when we consume vegetables such as spinach, broccoli or Brussels sprouts at the same time. Diets that prevent heart disease also prevent cancer. Low fat diets with lots of fruits and vegetables and very lean protein from some meats, poultry and fish are ideal. Canadians who do not eat properly and by that I mean eat a lot of prepared food and fast food takeout are most at risk for colorectal cancer. Once again this strain on your digestive system eventually causes cells in the colon to mutate to cells unable to perform apoptosis. In 2004, 19,100 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer (9800 men and 8300 women) and 8,300 of them died. After lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in men. Everybody knows that they should eat healthy food. Everybody knows they should exercise. This cancer is so preventable.
This type of cancer is not very prevalent in our society but is one of the leading causes of cancer in Australia. Here is a continent in which fair skinned people originally from England are exposed to high levels of radiation from the sun in an area of the world where the ozone layer is very thin and very depleted and actually non-existent for several months of the year. Many families today like to take their babies on vacations to tropical and equatorial climates. This exposure to very young children whose skin has not fully developed can very easily start the process of gene mutation in their skin resulting in melanomas at some point in their lives. Once again we have all the means to prevent this type of cancer and most of us do exercise caution in the sun, especially in the spring in Canada when the ozone layer is at it’s thinnest. In spite of all their knowledge, the highest rate of skin cancer in the world is still in Australia. Like everything else, moderation is the best way to go. The most recent studies have shown that moderate sun exposure produces more melanin in the skin and this has a protective effect against skin cancer. You also can acquire enough Vitamin D from spring and summer exposure to last you all winter.
Our bodies were never meant to be exposed to the high levels of radiation caused by atomic and hydrogen bombs or by radiation leaks from nuclear plants. This usually results in a leukemia type of cancer in which the radiation has affected the bone marrow causing a genetic mutation in both your red and white blood cells. You are left with too few white blood cells to exercise proper immunity functions and too few red cells to carry oxygen to all the parts of your body, the result being a very painful death. The only chance for treatment is a bone marrow transplant and your chance of getting an exact matching donor is about that same as winning the lottery. Unfortunately, in most cases there is no prevention from unwanted radiation.
Environmental toxins and chemicals
We live in a world in which large manufacturers of chemicals and chemical bi products leach these chemicals into the water supply and the food table and many people are exposed without their knowledge. If the job is hazardous and the pay is high, maybe you are putting your health at risk. If people in your community have a higher incidence of cancers than the national average, then no stone should be left unturned in order to find the cause.
The Canadian Cancer Society Should Spend More on Prevention
As you read this newsletter, it is April and the daffodils are blooming. Rather than a symbol of spring, the daffodil has become a symbol of the Canadian Cancer Society and April is Cancer Awareness Month. Once again they will ask you to give money, to raise money for them through runathons and walkathons and lotteries. Would you like to know what they did with the money you gave them last year? Of the hundreds of millions of dollars they collected, only 5.9% of these funds were spent on prevention. The largest part of their budget was spent on research, 45% but nearly all that research money was spent on developing drugs to treat cancer. Emphasis should be on prevention, not treatment. Suppose the automotive industry operated the same way as the Canadian Cancer Society. Instead of building cars with safety belts, air bags, collapsable steering columns, ABS brakes and safety glass, they would invest all their money in trauma centers situated all over our highways. They would be stocked with nurses, physicians and lots of blood for transfusion to repair all the accident victims. Prevention is always less expensive and less intrusive than treatment. As I said earlier, obesity has replaced tobacco as the number one cause of cancer. We have done an excellent job stopping all the advertising of cigarettes and we have treated smokers so badly that now only about 18% of people smoke. It is now time for the Canadian Cancer Society to join with our governments and ban the advertising of fast food. Our children should never see a TV commercial or a billboard for MacDonald’s or Burger King. You should have to be at least 18 years of age to frequent a fast-food restaurant and we should have warning labels on all their wrappers and containers indicating all the diseases that their food causes.
The Canadian Cancer Society should not be giving our hard-earned money to pharmaceutical companies who are only concerned about profits. They should be using this money to influence cities to become totally smokeless, to influence governments to make it illegal for the purveyors of unhealthy fast food to advertise anywhere and to eliminate trans fats from our food supply. They should make every effort to educate the public about how a healthy diet and exercise are the two most important methods of preventing cancer.