What Causes Cancer?

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Cancer Doesn’t Just Happen

While cancer is due to changes in genes, there are many contributing factors implicated in its occurrence, development and progression. Cancer generally arises due to a combination of factors; it is impacted by family history, environmental factors and lifestyle — it doesn’t simply appear out of nowhere, although it often seems to.

Normal and Abnormal Cellular Function

Every cell within your body is “programmed” to have a life cycle. Each cell is formed, performs its business, and ultimately dies in order to make room for new, fresh cells.

The length of time a cell lives is determined by the kind of cell it is. Genetic material within the cell, DNA, directs the cell’s activity and lifespan.

When DNA becomes damaged, the cell no longer behaves in a normal, healthy manner — it may become cancerous. Cancerous cells reproduce abnormally, are malformed, and don’t know when to die.

The Health of Your Entire Body Affects Cancer Development

Cancer doesn’t arise only as a result of abnormal cell growth. If your immune system is healthy, it will “attack” abnormal cells, deactivate them, and rid your body of them.

This is one of many reasons why supporting immune system health is such an important, yet often overlooked, aspect of therapy for individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancerous cells also rely on a process called angiogenesis. Chemical reactions cause tiny capillaries to grow where the cancerous tissue is so the rapidly reproducing cells are “fed.”

A Poor Diet Is Involved in the Development of Most Cancers

More cancers are caused by poor diet than any other single controllable factor. Diets high in saturated fats, sugars and calories, while low in fresh produce, fiber and whole foods, lead to cancer.

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In addition, non-organic produce often contains pesticides and traces of man-made fertilizers, which are toxic substances.

Saturated and hydrogenated fats, such as margarine and animal fats, can also lead to the development of cancer. These fats cause inflammation, which plays a role in cancer development. In addition, compounds in unhealthy fats promote cellular changes, which lead to cancer. They also promote the growth and development of those cancerous cells once the cells mutate.

Diets consisting primarily of unhealthy foods do not supply the body with the vitamins, enzymes, minerals, and other compounds it needs to ensure immune system health.

Packaged and processed foods are stripped of their natural goodness; they contain a vast array of added chemicals designed to preserve and replace the naturally occurring nutrients. Proper cell growth and regulation requires the presence of a broad array of natural substances that cannot be supplied artificially.

When the natural nutrients are lacking, the result can be genetic damage to the cells. In addition, if insufficient levels of nutrients are available, the cell may form abnormally simply due to not having the necessary materials it needs to grow and function.

An unhealthy diet ultimately affects nutrition as a whole, further increasing stress on the body and setting the stage for cancer. A poor diet may result in obesity, which is also a cancer risk factor.

Toxins Promote Cancer

In addition to toxins consumed from your diet, exposure to toxins from your lifestyle and the environment affect your risk of cancer. Some toxic exposure is unavoidable, however much of it is preventable.

Some toxins cause cancer directly, while others convert to substances that cause cancer when they come into your cells. Harmful chemicals interfere with hormone regulation and other processes your body needs in order to stay well and cancer-free.

  • Tobacco and other smoke contain vast numbers of chemicals that cause cancer. Smoking has harmful effects on the entire body; tobacco use increases the risk of lung, throat, pancreatic, oral and urinary tract cancers, and is responsible for approximately one-third of all cancers.
  • Alcohol is an irritant that stresses the liver and digestive tract. Excess alcohol consumption has been proven to increase the likelihood of breast, gastrointestinal, liver and throat cancers.
  • Hormone therapies, which are used to treat many medical conditions, can result in cancer. Estrogen replacement therapy, which is used for menopausal women, increases users’ risks of developing several types of cancer. There is still debate on whether or not hormonal contraceptives can cause cancer.
  • Many types of chemotherapeutic agents can cause cancer. These substances are used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases in the first place, but are toxins that can cause cancer later in life.
  • Asbestos, dyes, radiation, and heavy metals are common workplace toxins that can cause cancer. Petrochemicals, chorine, solvents, formaldehyde and plastics are common in the community, home and workplace.

It’s Not All Gloom and Doom

Learning about the many factors implicated in cancer growth and development may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Identifying cancer-promoting agents is the first step toward eliminating them.

The next step is developing an action plan. Together, we can create an environmentally-friendly, less toxic world that will reduce the risk of cancer, be sustainable, and ensure the wellbeing of future generations.

What step will you take today to prevent or limit the growth of cancer?

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