It may come as a surprise to read that most types of cancer can be put down to bad luck rather than risk factors such as smoking.
Well a study in the US has showed that two thirds of the cancer types analysed were caused just by chance mutations rather than lifestyle but some of the most common and deadly cancers are still heavily influenced by lifestyle.
Cancer Research UK maintain that a healthy lifestyle would still heavily stack the odds in a person’s favour in avoiding cancer as, whilst two thirds of cancer types are simply chance, the remaining third are heavily influenced by the choices we make.
Cancer can strike anyone at any time, there will always be non-smokers who end up with lung cancer, whilst there will be lifetime smokers who escape the clutches of cancer completely.
To the man who works with asbestos for years and yet has no symptoms, to his wife who cleaned his dirty overalls, then goes on to suffer from mesothelioma. Often there is no way of knowing if and when cancer may strike.
So what is the root of cancer? The team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health believe the way tissues regenerate is the answer.
Old tired cells in the body are constantly being replaced with new ones made by dividing stem cells. But with each division may come a dangerous mutation that moves the stem cell one step closer to being cancerous.
Cristian Tomasetti, an assistant professor of oncology and one of the researchers, said a focus on prevention would not prevent such cancers.
“If two thirds of cancer incidence across tissues is explained by random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide, then changing our lifestyle and habits will be a huge help in preventing certain cancers, but this may not be as effective for a variety of others. We should focus more resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages.”
So early detection and prompt treatment would appear to be the best answer?
Separate research by Cancer Research UK shows more than four in 10 of the total number of cancers were down to lifestyle.
Dr Emma Smith, senior science information officer at the charity, told the BBC:
“We estimate that more than four in 10 cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes, like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol. Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour. It’s vital that we continue making progress to detect cancer earlier and improve treatments, but helping people understand how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer in the first place remains crucial in tackling cancer.”
There are no guarantees of course but we can all try to help ourselves by reducing our own level of risk.
But then there are further comments from a leading doctor who says in a blog published in The BMJ that cancer is “the best way” to die and insists we should stop wasting billions of pounds on a cure.
Richard Smith believes the opportunity to reflect on life before it ends is important and urges charities and the medical world to “stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer“.
So death from cancer is the best ??
Yes you can say your goodbyes, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare for death but this is often a long and painful process, not only to the person suffering from cancer but their family and friends.
Only this morning I have heard a story of someone dying from cancer, who apparently held on through Christmas before passing away. Was this a case of someone holding on for a special family occasion?
I dare say that there is no right or wrong answer to this issue, for some they would rather get it over with rather than have a long, painful and drawn out wait for the inevitable. Others might not want to go so quietly.
There are various cancer charities in the UK, all of whom carry out important work, in identifying the causes and risk factors, to helping to prevent and cure cancers, to helping those suffering from cancer and their families through such difficult times.
But everyone can to some extent help themselves and others in this regard.