Does leading a healthy lifestyle really prevent cancer?originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Adriana Heguy, molecular biologist, genomics researcher, on Quora:
If you understand cancer prevention as taking measures to reduce the risk of developing cancer, then yes, leading a healthy lifestyle will prevent cancer. But not 100%. It’s always a matter of risk reduction. If you have genetic factors, you may not avoid cancer. Sometimes people just get unlucky: the wrong cell mutates at the wrong time, and you still end up with cancer.
But a healthy lifestyle is part of an overall strategy of cancer prevention, that should include screening as recommended by your doctor, for early detection.
Some concrete examples of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention:
Do not smoke .
Smoking, the main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, contributes to 80 percent and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to never smokers.
Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans (74,300 men and 56,359 women) died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.
Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.
Smoking also increases your chance of developing other cancers: esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.