Preventing Cancer

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, about half of Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes and a quarter of Canadians will die of cancer. Cancer mainly affects Canadians over the age of 50, and is now the leading cause of death in Canada, responsible for about one-third of deaths each year. Heart disease now accounts for less than a fifth of deaths in Canada.

These statistics are frightening. However, there are many things that you can do to reduce your risk of getting cancer. It’s never too late to start.

In the next series of blog posts, I will talk about the many things that you can do to prevent cancer.

First, here’s a brief description of cancer and what causes it.

What happens when you get cancer?

Normally, the DNA in each of your cells tell your cells to divide normally. After a certain number of divisions, your cells die. For a variety of reasons, the DNA in your cells can get damaged and cause your cells to start dividing out of control and not die when they’re supposed to. When enough of these damaged cells accumulate, they form a tumor. Bits of the tumor can break off, migrate to other parts of the body, and form new tumors. This is called metastasis. If allowed to get out of control, cancer cells can eventually take over the healthy functions of your body and you die.

Cancer and your genes

Certain genetic mutations, such as having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that can cause breast cancer, put some people at increased risk of developing cancer. However, having these genes doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get cancer. This means that your genes don’t tell the whole story. The other part of the story is your environment, both internal and external, which you can control. Keep reading to find out what I mean.

The new study of epigenetics teaches us that our environment can activate or deactivate our genes. Because we can control our environment, we can control gene expression or activation. This also holds true for cancer genes, which is very encouraging. It means that having cancer genes or mutations isn’t a death sentence.

What sorts of things can we do to create an environment that is inhospitable to cancer cells?

Look for my next blog post on things you can do to prevent cancer.