Whether we get cancer or not is not just a matter of fate. Who prevents cancer at an early stage, can be Significantly reduce the risk of cancer. Here you can learn how cancer develops and what you can do to prevent it.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death
Our body has a sophisticated system for recognizing damaged or defective cells and making them harmless. But in the case of cancer, this system fails. Healthy body cells become cancer cells that no longer respond to regulatory signals. Uncontrolled cell growth is the result. Depending on the tissue in which this occurs, different types of cancer can develop.
In this country, cancers set the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attack and stroke). But the good thing is: you can influence the risk of developing certain types of cancer through your lifestyle. The body’s own "anti-cancer mechanisms" can also be supported with.
What is cancer and how do cancer cells develop?
Almost every cell in the body must divide regularly in order to renew itself. For each of these Cell divisions can cause errors. These errors represent changes in the genetic material of the cell and are also called mutations. This is a very normal process. Our body is well equipped for this, for example through protective mechanisms such as the duplication of DNA in each cell. In addition, the body’s own repair system recognizes defective cells and specifically causes them to die.
In rare cases, however, several mutations come together in such an unfortunate way that the body no longer has the opportunity to render the cells harmless.
Cancer develops when cells z.B. acquire the following characteristics through mutations:
- The cell divides uninhibitedly without the signal it normally needs to do so
- The cell no longer responds to messengers or signals that trigger cell death or stop cell division
- The cells acquire the potential to grow destructively into neighboring tissue or to spread with the blood or lymph and form daughter tumors (metastases)
- The cancer cell produces messenger substances that stimulate the formation of blood vessels and thus ensure the supply of nutrients to the tumor
This often doesn’t happen all at once. As a cancer cell divides unchecked, more mutations occur in the process. These can ensure that the cancer acquires more and more of the above-mentioned characteristics over time. In some cases, precancerous lesions can also develop into cancer over time.
Risk factors for the development of cancer
The risk of cancer generally increases with age. On the one hand, because more time has passed during which errors can occur in cell division. On the other hand, however, because cell aging increases the likelihood of error. Predisposition (genetic predisposition) also plays a role in some types of cancer. Unfortunately, we can hardly influence these two factors.
Based on the above-mentioned characteristics of cancer cells, one can well imagine what else increases the risk of cancer. These are all substances and influences that increase the error rate during cell division. These are referred to as mutagenic (causing mutations) or carcinogenic (causing cancer) substances (1). Many of them can be avoided. To find out what these are and how you can reduce your risk of cancer, see the cancer prevention tips below.
Types of cancer and frequency
Every cancer is different. There are types of cancer that grow very slowly and often do not need to be treated at all at first (for example, certain lymphomas). Other types of cancer, on the other hand, are so aggressive that they can only be cured at a very early stage and with the most powerful therapies. So "the cancer" does not exist.
In principle, cancer can develop in any tissue and in any part of the body. However, there are some cancers that are particularly common (2). In men, prostate cancer is the most common (around 60.000 new cases per year in Germany). Breast cancer, at around 70.000 new cases per year among women in the lead. For both sexes, colorectal cancer comes in second place and lung cancer in third place.
There are about 100 different cancers in total. They all progress differently and respond to different agents or therapies. Therefore, no general statements can be made about the course or chances of cure. However, there are things you can do to live healthier and reduce your risk of developing many of these cancers.
You can prevent cancer with these tips
You can do a few things yourself to prevent cancer from developing in the first place (7, 9). However, this only means that you can lower your risk for certain types of cancer. It does not mean that every cancer is always preventable. But a 2018 U.S. study showed that as many as 42 percent of more than 1.5 million cancer cases studied were directly attributable to preventable risk factors (3). Main risk factors according to this study: smoking, overweight and alcohol.
Basically, it makes sense to implement as many of the following tips as possible. Because not only do you reduce your risk of cancer, but you also strengthen your immune system and prevent cardiovascular problems.
Cigarette smoke contains a large number of carcinogenic substances. Most people know the connection with lung cancer. But smoking has also been shown to be a major risk factor for cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, sinus and larynx, as well as esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer and many other cancers.
Alcohol only in moderation, please
It is now proven that regular and / or excessive alcohol consumption not only damages the liver, but can also promote cancer of the oral cavity, colon, female breast, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, intestine and liver (4).
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that obesity may be linked to cancer, especially in the intestines, liver, prostate, female breast, gallbladder, uterus, and kidneys. According to the WHO, a BMI of less than 25 is ideal.
Cautious exposure to sun / UV radiation
We all know that too much sun or going to the solarium accelerates skin aging and can promote skin cancer. Excessive sun protection, however, prevents the formation of vitamin D. Here you should find a middle ground that suits you best. Above all, sunburn should be avoided at all costs.
The right diet can protect against cancer
Reports of "miracle foods" should often be viewed with caution. Evidence shows, however, that a balanced, high-fiber diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but little sugar and little animal protein (meat, fish, dairy products, eggs) reduces the risk of cancer (4,5). The dietary fiber contained protects against colon cancer. There is also evidence that plant foods such as tomatoes, onions, garlic or cabbage can reduce the risk of various cancers. The use of probiotics is also discussed in cancer prevention (8).
Occasional fasting is also advisable as a preventive measure, because it triggers a self-cleansing process in our cells, known as autophagy (10). Fasting in case of existing cancer should only be considered under medical supervision. In addition we have an interview with the chamfering researcher Professor. Dr. Andreas Michalsen recorded (see below). Here you can find our article about autophagy.
Autophagy is also triggered by black coffee (even decaffeinated), exercise, and a substance called spermidine.
Exercise and sport against cancer
Numerous studies show that regular exercise and physical activity protect against cancer (5). The risk of colorectal cancer in particular is greatly reduced if you are active and get plenty of exercise. According to cancer researchers, this probably also applies to prostate cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer. In women, the risks of cancer of the uterus and breast also decrease.
Pay attention to safety in risky workplaces
If you are professionally involved with (potentially) carcinogenic substances, then you should definitely be very meticulous about following all protective measures. This also applies to private work. An example: during a remodeling project, a garden shed is torn down that still has old roof panels with asbestos on them.
Minimize pollutant intake
Today we are surrounded by many pollutants, some of which it is not certain can promote cancer. That’s why it makes sense to avoid artificial additives in your environment, for example when buying food, floor coverings and furniture, mattresses, wall paints and cleaning agents.
You should avoid mold
Mold in the home is not only harmful to the lungs and can trigger allergies. Some types of mold are also suspected of producing carcinogenic substances.
Are you exposed to radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring noble gas. It is found almost everywhere in the soil. Over time, it diffuses through the soil and can accumulate especially in old houses and basements. That’s why new homes are often equipped with protective layers in the floor slab or aeration technology. The problem with radon: it is radioactive and can cause lung cancer.
If you are afraid of radon exposure or live in a radon-risk area (contact the city or municipality or your local health authority), you should have a radon test. find out on online maps), you should take a measurement, recommends the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (6). For this purpose, for example, the purchase of a radon meter , which records the values in the bedroom or living room is suitable.
Hormone replacement therapies and cancer risk
In the past, hormone replacement therapies were often used against menopausal symptoms in a very undifferentiated way. Today, these are only considered in the case of very severe symptoms. The reason: The therapy has many side effects and also increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding protects mothers from breast cancer
Childless women or women who do not breastfeed have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This often cannot be avoided. But if you have a choice, you shouldn’t give up breastfeeding.
Do stress reduction and relaxation prevent cancer?
Researchers argue about the extent to which the psyche has an influence on the development of cancer. One thing is clear: those who suffer from depression or burnout or are constantly under a lot of stress often live unhealthier lives. Under stress, people often drink more alcohol, smoke, eat an unhealthy diet or exercise less. All these factors increase the risk of cancer. In addition, negative stress impairs the immune system, which is responsible for recognizing and defending against pathogens, as well as defective body cells. A balanced mental state is more likely to promote a healthy lifestyle and vice versa.
Can we protect ourselves from cancer-causing viruses and bacteria?
It has been proven that some bacteria and viruses can promote the development of cancer. This includes the stomach germ Helicobacter pylori, which can cause stomach cancer in addition to stomach pain and gastritis. In the case of stomach problems, it is therefore standard today to test for this bacterium and, if necessary, to treat it. Various viruses also contribute to the development of cancer. Some international health organizations therefore recommend that babies be vaccinated against hepatitis B (which causes liver cancer) and that girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV, which causes cervical cancer). It should be mentioned, however, that these vaccinations are controversial.
Cancer and therapeutic fasting – Interview with Prof. Dr. Andreas Michalsen
Prof. Andreas Michalsen is an internist and professor of clinical naturopathy at Charite Berlin and Immanuel Hospital Berlin. One of his research interests is therapeutic fasting. In this interview excerpt, he talks about the touchy subject of fasting and cancer. You can find more information in our healing fasting article.