Where does cancer come from? We must talk about preventable risk

Although my patient constantly and laughingly referred to himself as a “vegetable”, I never got used to it. I cringed at the expression, often wondering how he really felt beneath the smiles. Short in height and morbidly obese, he hated moving and told everyone how much he loved fat and sugar, preferably together. The first time I met him he struggled to walk the few metres to my room before crashing into a chair and clutching its sides as he regained his breath. He was only 57 years old.

Just before starting chemotherapy he developed a urine infection. His symptoms settled quickly but even I was surprised at the way he became deconditioned. Previously able to get to the bathroom, now he would collapse in bed with each attempt to get up. Then he developed a hospital-acquired pneumonia and nearly died. It was assumed that cancer caused his deterioration, but the real culprit was his dismal lack of fitness. Ultimately, I witnessed my patient’s treatment, and then his life, compromised by habits encompassed by the benign-sounding term “lifestyle factors”. Unfortunately he was neither the first nor the last patient of this kind.

Recently, Australian researchers added to a growing body of evidence that a large proportion of cancers are preventable. The researchers studied known groups of cancer risk factors including smoking, diet, weight, physical inactivity and infections such as hepatitis C and human papillomavirus and estimated that of the 44,000 cancer deaths annually in Australia, 17,000, or nearly 40%, are potentially preventable. This figure mirrors those stated by Cancer Research UK, the American Cancer Society and the World Health Organisation.

For more read the full of article at The Guardian

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