Cancer and Associated Risk Factors
In the last two decades, our fight against cancer has shown promise with advancements in medical science and technology enabling us to experience and a giant leap in both prevention and treatment efforts of diseases and medical conditions. However, we still have a long way to go.
Cancer is a range of diseases that involves abnormal cellular growth (tumor). These abnormal cells have been “activated” into cancerous cells, which then have the potential to invade and/or spread to other parts of the body. However, it should be noted that not all tumors are cancerous.
Abnormal tumor cells can be triggered into cancerous cells via many factors, e.g., genetic mutation, chronic disease, obesity and other lifestyle disorders, long-term drug use, chemical hazards as well as inheriting these “triggers” from your parents.
In this feature, we’ll look at some of these triggers and their relation to cancer and cancer development.
Type II Diabetes and Cancer
We’ll kick start this feature by looking at how type II diabetes is associated with cancer. Diabetes is a range of metabolic disorder that involves impaired production and use of certain key regulatory hormones in our bodies. Diabetics are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer. In this feature, we are interested in Type II diabetes, which involves Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas to manage blood sugar levels and maintain constant energy production.
Type II diabetes is further classified into Insulin-dependent and Insulin-independent type II diabetes. In the former, there is little production of Insulin than normal requiring the patient to constantly inject themselves with commercial insulin. While in the later, there is normal Insulin production, but the body fails to utilize it.
Type II diabetes may influence the neoplastic process (the process of cells becoming abnormal) with its associated symptoms i.e., chronic inflammation, hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar levels) and hyperinsulinemia (increased levels of insulin in the blood, which is toxic). May also influence cancer development by the use of medication which may alter internal body environment.
High Cholesterol, Hypertension and Cancer
High blood cholesterol and hypertension (high blood pressure) are commonly associated with changes in lifestyle like poor and unhealthy eating habits, chronic alcohol abuse, and lack of physical activity, overweightness and obesity. Moreover, high cholesterol and hypertension can be a factor in increasing cancer risk.
High blood pressure arises from high cholesterol levels with ‘bad’ cholesterol being deposited on our arteries thus increasing blood pressure. Organ disease and failure i.e., the heart and kidneys soon follow suit. These cascading factors trigger the neoplastic process and subsequent cancer development.
High cholesterol and hypertension can be managed by incorporating a healthy diet plan and frequent physical activity and emotional well-being.
Obesity and Cancer
Obesity is a complex disease resulting from the interactions of a wide variety of hereditary, hormonal, emotional, cultural and environmental factors. Overweight people have increased risk of developing chronic ailments like type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension and moreover, many types of cancer.
Overweightness or obese may trigger the neoplastic process via chronic low-level inflammation, overproduction of estrogen (a hormone associated with the development of breast and endometrial cancers) and the impairment of metabolic processes by the fat tissues.
Maintaining a healthy weight is paramount in reducing cancer risk as well as cancer reoccurrence to survivors. A change in lifestyle behaviors by incorporating physical activity and food intake can be a start, followed by attitude and support from family and friends.
As we have observed, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, and obesity are associated with risks in cancer development. Therefore, managing these conditions properly also means lowering the risk of cancer.