Escalating Cancer rates ... what's our part in it all?
When it comes to being well or unwell, and why some people are, and some people aren’t, it can at times seem like it is just “the luck of the draw”, or even a terrible type of “health Life lottery”. The winners are well, the losers unwell, and suffering from anything as simple as a common cold, to potentially ongoing chronic pain, or even one of the many forms of cancer, including breast cancer to name but a few. But is this lottery style belief about ill health cutting us all short in the part we play in our own health?
As much as we might act like we don’t know, we all do know we have a role to play in our health, and that our way of living will contribute either positively or negatively to balancing the scales of that so-called lottery in our favour. We know the importance of personal hygiene, exercise, eating well, not smoking, self-care and so on. Governments worldwide and scientists alike tell us that as citizens we have the power to influence our own health and wellbeing for the better.
It is clear that as a society we do know we have a role to play in our wellbeing, but according to recent reports in the UK press, we seem to largely be ignoring this easily accessible and very personal power that we have to significantly influence our own health.
According to the UK National Health Service (NHS) (1), there are now so-called deadly lifestyles, that notably include obesity, that are threatening to dramatically increase the number of cancers linked to excess weight.
The NHS have even gone so far as to say Obesity is a preventable cause of cancer for women in the UK. By preventable they mean, we as women have the power to prevent ourselves from being diagnosed with cancer.
To state it more plainly, the NHS is saying that in 2015 there were upward of 22,000 cases of cancer that were preventable simply by the person living a healthier and more supportive lifestyle. 22,000 people who have had to face the enormous challenge of cancer, including medical support and costs, loss of work, fear of death, and the outward ripple of the emotional roller coaster to family and friends. They predict that by 2035 that number will exceed 40,000 cases of preventable cancer.
Obesity is being called “the new smoking” in that it is a key cause in what would otherwise be avoidable deaths. The NHS also advises that around 29% of UK adults are now obese, which is double the level that it was in 1993. That is an enormous increase that has a significant flow on effect to the number of people with cancer.
Dr Jennifer Ligibel from Harvard’s Dana-Faber Cancer Institute tells us that the relationship between excess weight, obesity and a higher risk of developing more than a dozen different types of cancer, is one of the greatest challenges facing the world. Her evidence suggests that in relation to excess weight and breast cancer that for every 11lbs of added weight the risk of breast cancer increases by 8%.
These facts are at the same time shocking, and an enormous opportunity. There is no doubt whatsoever that a healthy lifestyle, one based in the fundamentals of self-care and self-nurturing, and one that considers the whole body, is something that will positively impact on a woman’s risk of contracting many cancers including breast cancer.
There are the obvious actions we can all take, including healthier food choices, walking or gentle exercise. With the understanding that these simple, everyday choices can have a substantial impact on your health, there is a new found purpose in a regular walk, or a healthy meal. It is no longer about having the slimmest magazine body, but rather it is about caring enough for ourselves that we do what is in our power to not be a statistic of escalating cancer rates.
(1) Donnelly, L. (2019). Obesity has become 'the new smoking' and will fuel weight-related cancers, head of NHS warns. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/05/31/obesityhas-become-new-smoking-will-fuel-weight-related-cancers/