Prevention is considered a key success factor in the struggle against cancer. Everyday prevention begins from food we eat properly, till periodical medical controls with the assumption of integrators when needed.
In the last decade the concept of prevention got more and more importance mainly because death rate for this pathology increased a lot.
The reason of this significant increase is a prolongation of average life and a change in life styles.
For example increase in cancer lung is a consequence of the rise of smokers both male and female.
For this reason there has been a different approach to the illness, from curative to preventive because of the limits discovered in the efficacy of medical therapies too. In 1981 was published the first scientifically controlled list of the main risk factors that cause tumor. We can divide prevention into different categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.
The purpose of the primary prevention is to reduce the incidence of cancer by controlling risk factors and increasing individual resistance to these factors; that is to avoid the rising of tumor. So it’s necessary to recognize all risk factors a person can meet and recognize possible genetic factors too.
A correct primary prevention it’s not only based on the identification of risk factors but mainly on the evaluation on how many population or single person are exposed to these risks.
Primary preventions strategies can be addressed to all people (for example the correct use of food or physical activity) or to those persons considered “at a high risk” (for example the person who has a high genetic risk, or smokers). So don’t smoke, let’s have a diet poor in animal saturated fats, reduce total calories, reduce alcohol consumption and reduce exposition to work and life unhealthy environmental conditions.
There are also primary preventions instruments, vaccines, used against those infective factors that increase risk of tumor such as B hepatitis (liver tumor) or Human Papilloma virus (HPV cause of uterus nest cancer).
Secondary prevention’s purpose is to identify tumor at the beginning in order to threat it efficacely to obtain more recoveries and reduction of death rate. Secondary prevention combines with an early diagnosis measure and it’s often between illness biological raise and coming out of first symptoms. Secondary prevention is the screening methods to locate pre-cancerous or pre-neoplastic lesions or those lesions with a typical evolution factor.
Mammography, mammary echography, smear test and colonoscopy are only some of the main important tests (examination) to identify lesions with evolutions features.
Tertiary prevention is about recidivists (relapses) or the rising of metastasis after surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments (or all of them in association with natural remedies and complementary methods as it works in integrated medicine).
It also includes adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal treatments) that lengthen periods without illness and increase surviving for some kind of tumor such as for example: testicle, breast, colon tumors and so on.
We talk about risk factor when there are cancerogenic substances or elements that can increase cancer development. There are two different kinds of risk factors: alterable (behavior and environment that is physical, chemical substances and food foodstuff) and no alterable (age, sex and genetic inheritance). The effects of these factors depend on several variables (factors): type and period of exposition to the risk or combined effect of two or more factors.
Recent studies point out that in most tumors is possible to identify a DNA alteration very important for the rising of this illness, but usually environmental and genetic elements together start and spread cancer.
Mathematical models have been created to establish tumor risk considering presence or absence of one or more risk factors and their interaction. In particular, models establish if a person is at a high or a low level risk even if it’s not sure that a subject with a high risk will fall ill and, in the meanwhile, these models don’t rule out that those people at low risk can be defeated by cancer.
The main purpose of risk factor identification and control is to reduce cancer risk and then mortality. But the development of tumor last several years so it’s very important to find out intermediate targets (for example pre-cancerous lesions).
It’s clear that intermediate targets have some limits. For example it’s possible that a cancerous lesion will not become tumor or vice versa a screening negative result is at no risk.
Prevention can be done by:
• Adoptive different life styles
• Screening to identify hereditary genetic predispositions (rare) or initial cancerous lesions.
Screenings are important because they find out the beginning of a disease also for those people who don’t have symptoms of the illness.
Diet is one of the main instruments in cancer prevention. Which are the factors that connect food’s quantity and quality to tumors? First of all quantity is accused. In 1995 at the Harvard Medical School an epidemiological study on the connection between overweight and cancer pointed out that there is a big incidence of intestinal tumors in those people who don’t practice sport on a regular basis.
Recent studies demonstrated that in overweight and obese women there is a higher incidence of uterus nest and breast tumors; in breast tumor the risk increase is of 50%
Why? About intestinal cancer we have two theories: an extreme diet increase the progress (trend) of insulin’s levels and in the meanwhile encourage inflammatory processes.
After having had a lavish meal insulin’s peaks let tumor cells grow up and inflammation is the perfect environment to increase malignant cells.
For this reason there are studies on the positive effects of anti-inflammatory medicines, aspirin, on the reduction of colon tumor risk.
Breast tumor: during women menopause fat is the main cause of estrogens production and probably overweight increases estrogens’ level causing the lengthening of time exposition of mammary gland to the negative effects of female hormone
About food quality: scientific research studies four oriental natural substances, green tea, soy, ginseng and some qualities of mushrooms.
Some experimental data on laboratory animals and epidemiological researches agree in considering green tea an important element in cancer prevention, mostly for the skin one.
The substance that has this function is a phenol called: epigallocatechine-3-gallato. But a bowl of this kind of phenol in the morning it’s not enough: in the Middle and the Far East people drink at least one liter of it every day.
About soy there are some studies on isoflavons, in fact they are able to behave as weak estrogens with positive results both in menopause and probably in breast cancer prevention, such as some medicine used for recidivist prevention in breast cancer (selective modulator of estrogenin receptor or Serm).
Research on Ginseng is increasing more and more and it’s possible that its regular use can prevent different kind of cancer.
Then we have “ganoderma lucidum” that is a much appreciated mushroom by Koreans, Chinese and Japanese people: researchers are really interested in this mushroom because of its immune system stimulating capabilities and the inhibition of leukemic cells.
After East, Western. Olive oil, grapes and broccoli are common food but really interesting for their chemo- preventive cancer origins.
Protection action of broccoli and crucifers is known since a group of researchers published on an American Science National Academy review the description of an “extraordinary protective capability of broccoli buds against chemical carcinogens”. These vegetables could improve capability to expulsion carcinogens by iper-activation of specific hepatic enzymes.
About grapes studies are mostly interested on resveratrol that is a flavonoid with important anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties: it’s possible that the last properties could be based on the first ones.
Olive oil has been studied by the most important researchers such as Harold Newmark of Rockefeller University (USA).
The protection action comes out from an oil substance “squalene” and mainly from one of its derivatives the “lanosterol”. Recently “Carcinogenesis” review announced the synthesis of new compounds coming from squalene (shark cartilage is rich of it) to test in cancer prevention.
In Italy every year 250.000 people fall ill with cancer and 150.000 of them die.
One million and a half of sick people are actually treated and include new cases, patients under treatment and healed.
A man has got 1 possibility on 3 to develop tumor in his middle life, a woman 1 on 5; a baby who is born nowadays and that will live till 80 years could see over 20 millions of people falling down with cancer.
Tumors incidence grows up constantly and forecasts say that in Italy in 2010 there will be 400.000 new sick people each year, which is 100 every day.
There are two main causes: first the increase of elderly people and second the increase of use of cancerogenous substances such as smoke.