Perhaps not everyone knows this. about 50% of cancer cases are preventable And it is known that the fight against cancer is not only its treatment, but also early diagnosis or even, if possible, prevention of its development. Prevention can be divided into 2 types: primary prevention AND secondary prevention. There is also a third type of prevention through some treatments, which, however, are exclusively medical competence.
Related to the topic of primary prevention are cancer risk factors, but how to distinguish them and what are the main associated risk factors? Dr. Doris Mascheroni, oncologist, head of the medical operative department and subacute operative department of the Villa Aprica Clinical Institute, tells us about this.
Primary prevention and risk factors
“As already mentioned, prevention can be:
- elementary: compriseseliminate risk factors;
- secondary: equivalent early diagnosis;
Therefore, primary prevention is carried out wherever possible. avoid behaviors or environments that can change a healthy cell in the bodycausing it to mutate several times, that is, change it until it turns into a tumor cell, ”explains Dr. Doris Mascheroni.
Environmental risk factors
Among the main environmental risk factors that increase the risk of developing cancer:
- air or water pollutants;
- industrial waste;
- certain gases and/or industrial solvents.
There are many chemical substances known to be carcinogenic and there is a suspicion that many others behave in exactly the same way (exhaust gases of engines diesel, radon, painting business, mineral oils used in metalworking and printing industry).
The most well-known material that can be confidently correlated with the occurrence of pleural cancer (mesothelioma) isasbestosthe use and disposal of which is not in accordance with the law is illegal and entails significant fines.
Importance of lifestyle
In addition to the risks associated with external agents that must be addressed in the context of a social prevention program, especially from institutions, it is important to note that lifestyle each of us can more or less favorably affect the development of cancer and not only.
The most famous Risk factors in our lifestyle presented:
- smokeit should be remembered that about 80% of lung tumors can be associated with this;
- bad food, obesity due to malnutrition is a dangerous condition not only due to the occurrence of neoplasms;
- passive lifestyle;
- alcohol abuse.
Modifiable risk factors
“Some risk factors can be changed with human strategy., personal or institutional, – the expert explains, -. The best lifestyle choice to avoid most diseases, not just cancer, is the Mediterranean diet associated with physical activity:
- reduce the consumption of meat and animal products;
- increase consumption of fish, fruits and vegetables;
- replace animal seasonings (butter) with vegetable ones (olive oil);
- to drink a lot of water;
- perform at least minimal daily physical activity in accordance with the age and physique of each.
Our way of life also includes attitude caution against excessive exposure to sunlightthe abuse of which (unfortunately, also due to the ozone hole) can lead to the transformation of our skin cells into cancerous ones, therefore, especially during this period, exposure to the sun can certainly benefit the body, bones and the whole mood, but with necessary protective creams and not during the hottest hours.
Non-modifiable risk factors
“There are also non-modifiable risk factors.for which our way of life or the policies of the leaders can do nothing. One often wonders why a heavy smoker will never get cancer in their life, or maybe instead a non-smoker will get this neoplasm, or that, despite an impeccable lifestyle, the tumor takes over.
Well, it is necessary to take into account 3 factors for which we cannot voluntarily make any changes:
Taking the first two for granted (for example, breast cancer is known to be 98% preferred by women, but also present in about 2% of men), an in-depth study is needed. genetic factors“.
Genetic risk factors
“Some cells in our body,” the specialist continues, “may undergo one or more mutations due to external factors or inappropriate lifestyle, but our body and our immune system most often can block this transformation mechanism and prevent the formation of neoplastic tissue. When our “protective system” is not enough to interrupt the cellular transformation and reproduction of the changed cells, we help the development and growth of the neoplasm.
Then there is one predisposition family genetics this, of course, does not mean that the tumor is automatically transmitted from parent to child, but that the child may have a greater predisposition to infection with the neoplasm, like his ancestors.
Such is the case with the well-known BRCA gene mutation (think, for example, the story of Angelina Jolie), which induces a greater risk of breast and ovarian cancer in patients whose parents have this anomaly.
Colon cancer is often “familial” because genetic factors are often associated with eating habits that are passed down from generation to generation (e.g., eating meat, eating fatty and fried foods, drinking alcohol, etc.).
Secondary prevention, on the other hand, is synonymous with early diagnosis: in fact, the earlier an anomaly in the tissue can be diagnosed, which over time can become a tumor or even the so-called “in situ”, that is, a localized neoplasm, the more certain is the cure.
“For this purpose screening campaigns who, using tests performed on subjects who are completely asymptomatic, look for and can detect signs of the presence of a neoplastic disease, Mascheroni concludes. The same goes for mammograms and fecal occult blood tests.
Cervical cancer was virtually eradicated with the advent of the Pap test several decades ago, which made it possible to diagnose mucosal changes before they turned into cancer or tumors in the initial stage and, therefore, are curable. Also in this context, the administration of the papillomavirus vaccine to children around the age of 12 should be remembered (mandatory, but voluntarily feasible for those who have not done it in the past, even in subsequent years): HPV is the main cause of malignant neoplasms in male and female genital organs, and, fortunately, it can be avoided thanks to this vaccination.
And, in addition to the screening offered by the regional health system, each of us can consciously engage in secondary prevention about lesions that may be suspicious: a deformed mole may contain melanoma cells, or a deepening of the voice in a smoker may indicate an initial lesion of the vocal cords: so-called “precancerous” they are not mathematically destined to become cancer, but they still need to be diagnosed and removed to prevent this possibility.“.