Cancer is a mysterious condition as no one clearly knows what triggers changes in healthy cells and why does it take place in the first place. Nonetheless, it is a debilitating condition that severely affects the quality of life of an individual.
People can go up to any extent to prevent themselves from getting cancer. However, there are some risk factors that they cannot control. Factors such as genetics and environmental pollution are something that is beyond the control of the humans. However, there are several factors that can be well controlled and managed to prevent the occurrence of cancer over an individual’s lifetime.
Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, choosing to exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet are some of the things that any individual can do to prevent cancer. Diet plays an important role in the prevention of cancer. However, its exact connection as to how it prevents cancer continues to be as mysterious as the condition itself.
But one thing is clear that dietary lifestyle works both ways – certain foods can prevent cancer, while others can trigger it. Several studies have been conducted on the subject, and a majority of them point to the fact that there is an association between diet and cancer. One thing, however, to note here is that this association is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship.
That is, there is no 100 percent clarity that excessive consumption of specific foods trigger cancer. But research has indeed found that certain dietary habits are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
Consumption of foods such as processed, charred, and red meat, hydrogenated oils, canned tomatoes, microwave popcorn, artificial sweeteners, bagels, and genetically-modified food items have been directly linked to an increased risk of cancer.
The effect of eating right on the reduced risk of cancer can be comprehended from the fact that as much as 34 percent cases of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancer in the UK can be prevented if people in the country ate more of non-starchy foods. If they include fruits in their daily diet, as much as 34 percent of the lung cancer cases can be prevented.
The following sections discuss some of the indirect reasons linked to a bad diet that are known to increase the risk of cancer.
Obesity Induced By Bad Dietary Choices
An important indirect way through which bad diet is thought to be related to increased risk of cancer is excessive weight. A bad dietary lifestyle characterized by an increased consumption of fatty, refined, high-calorie, and sugar-laden foods can make a person overweight or obese.
An individual with obesity is not only at an increased risk of comorbidities such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes but cancer as well. It has been scientifically proven that a higher body mass index (BMI) may increase the risk of some of the most common forms of cancer. An obese individual not only suffers physically but also financially. There is a cost of remaining obese, which is required for the management of health issues that accompany it.
A study published in The Lancet in 2014 revealed that gaining just 3.4 pounds of weight can increase the risk of certain cancers by as much as 10 percent. These include an increased risk of cancer of the colon, liver, kidneys, and gallbladder.
The researchers have linked obesity to an increased risk of 13 different types of cancers. However, the exact mechanism by which obesity increases cancer risk is not clearly known. Experts believe that fat cells produce inflammatory proteins and hormones that are known to promote the growth of tumor cells. Fat cells produce insulin and estrogen, excess of which is known to trigger cancer growth.
Looking Beyond The Food, To The Plate
Although limited, there is an evidence supporting the link between the use of plastic bottles and food packaging and an increased risk of certain cancers. There are several researchers that argue that chemicals from plastic packaging can seep into food when it is reheated. The same is being said about microwave-safe plastic plates, boxes, and dining ware.
Plastic food wrap and flexible plastic food containers are typically made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It contains a chemical called DHEA, which can seep into the food item being heated. Even though the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests that the there is not enough evidence supporting the claim that DHEA causes cancer, it is always wise to reduce and prevent unnecessary exposure to such chemicals.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is another controversial chemical contained in polycarbonate plastics. It has been scientifically researched that BPA can possibly mess up with the hormonal system in humans. For the same reason, it is also known as “hormone disruptors.” It has an impact on the human reproductive system, and its role in specific types of cancer cannot be ruled out. However, the effect of BPA on cancer risk is not known clearly.
Thus, it can be concluded that there are high chances of bad diet being linked to an increased risk of cancer, even though no direct link has been identified as yet. What is important is to eat healthily, maintain a healthy BMI, and stay away from products and material containing harmful and controversial chemicals.