High fat diet, tobacco are cancer triggers

August 5th, 2010 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) About 10 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year worldwide, with one-third the cases related to tobacco use, one-third to diet, another large percentage to infection and the remaining to pollution, stress and other factors.

According to Lalit Kumar, professor of medical oncology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), three million cases of cancer globally are due to tobacco use alone, with lung cancer claiming half the victims.

A high fat content diet can lead to breast cancer. Women who do yoga or moderate exercise everyday have lower incidence of cancer as compared to women with sedentary lifestyles and high fat intake, Kumar said at a talk at the India International Centre Wednesday evening.

“A high fat diet also acts as a trigger for prostate cancer. Fried food and spicy food is linked to cancer of the esophagus. Preservatives in food and smoked food, which is eaten in some parts of northeast India, also act as triggers for cancer,” he said, adding that high fat intake and low fibre intake can cause colon cancer.

Some fungal infections can lead to liver cancer, while the human papillomavirus has been proven to be the cause of cancer of the cervix. “But the good news is, a vaccine is available and in the next 20 years the incidence of cervical cancer will come down,” he said.

Are cancer cases rising?

“The cancer registries in metros are showing a rise in cancer cases, but that could be due to more people becoming aware and coming for treatment, better facilities available at hospitals and it is now no longer a taboo to talk about cancer. But there is a rise in breast cancer cases.”

“There is a clear evidence breast cancer cases are rising in India,” Kumar said.

It could be due to changes in lifestyle and due to urbanization, he said.

In Delhi, more cases of prostate, lung, urinary bladder and food pipe cancer were seen among elderly men, while breast cancer and cancer of the cervix were seen among women over 60.

North India, including Delhi, has reported gall bladder cancer cases, but surprisingly, south India has not reported such cancer cases. “This indicates something in the diet, in the environment,” he said.

In the West too, gall bladder cancer is uncommon, but cases were seen in Israel, east Europe and Chile and Japan.

Tobacco is one of the biggest culprits of cancer. “We need some legislation. People need to be informed. A bill has to be there,” the expert said, adding, “What is the use of telling people tobacco is injurious to health when they don’t heed it. We find hospital attendants and security guards smoking.”

Alcohol acts as a “co-factor” along with smoking to increase risk of cancer.

Obesity is also linked to cancer. Giving an example of how colon cancer is triggered, he said that for high fat content to be digested bile is secreted, the bile leads to irritation of the colon, which overtime causes the cells to start mutating.

The signs to watch out for are sudden change in bowel movements - constipation and diarrhoea - which is not getting better, passing urine frequently and spotted with blood, ulcer in mouth that is not getting better, vaginal discharge or bleeding, lump in the breast or thickening, choked foodpipe, difficulty in swallowing semi solid or liquid food, change in size of wart or mole, or its colour, persistent smokers’ cough with hoarseness in voice.

However, the good news is if people are aware and get themselves checked then the disease can be treated in the initial stages and the person can live a good life, he said.

In India, around one million people are diagnosed with cancer every year.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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