Behavior tips: How everyone can reduce their risk of cancer
Although the fear of cancer is widespread among Germans, the lifestyle risk can often be reduced in many types of cancer. This is pointed out by health experts on the occasion of World Cancer Day.
Every second German falls ill with cancer
In the past few weeks there have been reports of celebrities who have succumbed to cancer: rock legend David Bowie, Motörhead singer Lemmy Kilmister or "Harry Potter" star Alan Rickman: they all died of cancer. After cardiovascular diseases, malignant tumors are the second leading cause of death in Germany. As the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recently reported, about one in two people will develop it sooner or later. Around 500,000 people in Germany receive the dreaded diagnosis every year. In many cases it is fate, but lifestyle can have a significant impact on the risk of cancer. This is what experts point out on the occasion of World Cancer Day on February 4.
Half of the malignant tumors would be avoidable
However, there are studies in this area that come to very different results. It is known that there are clear differences between the different types of cancer. However, many scientists believe that up to a total of half of the malignant tumors would be avoidable if people did not smoke, abstained from alcohol, paid attention to their diet, exercised and stayed slim. In a message from the dpa news agency, the head of the cancer epidemiology department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Rudolf Kaaks, explained: "Of course, fate plays a role, but it can be strongly influenced."
Smoking is responsible for many cancer cases
According to Kaaks, smoking is responsible for about every fifth cancer case nationwide. According to the expert, the proportion of lung, throat, esophageal and bladder cancer is even higher. To make matters worse, lung cancer is very often fatal. "Smoking is the cause and certainly also number one killer when it comes to cancer mortality." Johannes Bruns, Secretary General of the German Cancer Society, also warned of the consequences of tobacco use. He said there were relatively few ways to effectively prevent cancer, and smoking was not one of them. It is particularly problematic that smokers endanger not only themselves, but also others. It is said that around 3,000 people in this country would die of cancer from passive smoking every year. There is a positive message from the DKFZ from last year: Its current tobacco atlas shows that there are fewer and fewer smokers in Germany.
Increased risk of being overweight
Few people are aware that being overweight increases the risk of cancer. It is estimated that at least five to six percent of all cancer cases could be attributed to this. "The list of cancers, which presumably causes obesity to play, is getting longer," explained Kaaks. Not only is obesity a risk factor here, but the risk is also greater for people who are slim and have a lot of belly fat. Bruns, however, sees no such obvious connection. Although the weight can be a risk factor for cancer, no one can say how much the risk increases from a certain weight, according to the expert.
Protective effect of fiber
Malnutrition also increases the risk of cancer. According to Kaaks, wrong nutrition plays a role in up to ten percent of all cancer cases. On the other hand, there are also foods that protect against cancer. According to the DKFZ expert, the protective effects of fiber and the harmful effects of red meat are best documented and most pronounced. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also classified red meat as likely to be carcinogenic a few months ago. In addition, the IARC, as a cancer research agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has pointed out that high consumption of processed meat - such as sausages - increases your risk of colon cancer. According to Kaaks, it has not been confirmed that vegetables and fruit greatly reduce the risk of cancer.
Physical activity against colon and breast cancer
It has also been shown that physical activity lowers the risk of colon and breast cancer. "And it may very well be that this also applies to many other types of cancer," says Kaaks. The department head of the Center for Cancer Registry Data at the RKI, Klaus Kraywinkel, estimates that at least every fifth cancer case is due to lack of exercise, overweight and / or unhealthy nutrition. "Fitness has a protective effect," said Bruns, according to dpa. "But no one should believe that they are immune to cancer just because they run the Berlin Marathon every year." Even with illness, sport obviously makes sense. British researchers recently reported that active exercise can help fight cancer.
A glass of beer might be enough
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of cancer. According to Kaaks, four to five percent of all cancer cases can be attributed to this. In his opinion, the combination of alcohol and smoking in particular is dangerous. A glass of wine or beer is enough to increase the risk of certain types of cancer easily but demonstrably. Here, too, Bruns has a slightly different opinion. He is convinced that with alcohol the dose makes the poison. "At some point the threshold is reached where the body can no longer handle it and cancer develops," he explained. However, this threshold is very different from person to person.
Skin cancer due to sunburn
Dermatologists often warn: every sunburn is added to your own skin account. According to Kaaks, 90 percent of all melanoma was probably caused by sunburn. This makes them the main risk factor for black skin cancer. “It is therefore extremely important to avoid sunburns.” Children and people with fair skin and red hair, for example, need special protection. "But you don't have to go so far as to sit in the basement when the sun is shining and only go out in the evening." After all, sunlight is important for the supply of vitamin D, which is important for health and the mind. Bacteria and viruses also play a major role in some types of cancer. As Kaaks said in the dpa report, HPV infections are responsible for all cases of cervical cancer. However, there is a vaccination against it. Kraywinkel assumes that chronic infections play a role in five to ten percent of cancers in Germany. The best known pathogens include the hepatitis B and C virus and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
One of the most important measures for cancer prevention
According to dpa, Bruns said that statutory preventive examinations are the most important measure for cancer prevention in addition to not smoking. For example, a colonoscopy can detect and remove cancer precursors. Colon cancer could not even arise from this. There are also similar effects in skin cancer screening and Pap smears for the early detection of cervical cancer. Some of these studies, however, are repeatedly criticized. Dermatologists in particular were upset in the past about doubts about cancer prevention and pointed to their successes. Even if cancer has already developed, some examinations can often detect it early. (ad)