Today is World Cancer Day 2022.
If you were born after 1960 there’s a 1 in 2 chance of you developing cancer in your lifetime.
By those odds, it could be Matt or I.
A pretty frightening thought I’m sure you’ll agree and one of the reasons I decided to complete a 3-day cancer nutrition course run by The Institute For Optimum Nutrition.
The research around cancer in relation to nutrition is mounting and the course was a great way to get up to speed on the latest research. This will allow me to confidently support my clients and loved ones, plus check my nagging was evidence-based 😉
Here are the latest figures:
The Bad and Ugly News
- In the UK there are just over 375,000 new cases each year
- Cancer caused 166, 533 deaths from 2016-2018
- Every two minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer
- Every four minutes someone in the UK dies from cancer
- Breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers accounted for over half (53%) of all new cancer cases in the UK in 2016-2018
- In women breast cancer is most common, followed by lung and bowel cancer
- In men prostate cancer is most common, followed by lung and bowel cancer
- Cancer survival is higher in women than men *the reason suggested is that women are more proactive in seeking medical advice at the onset of symptoms
- Lung and pancreatic cancer have the lowest survival rates
The Good News
- Approximately 4 in 10 (38% or 135,000) cases are preventable
- Smoking is the largest cause of cancer, accounting for 15% of cancer cases
- Cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK
- Cancer survival is higher in people diagnosed < 40 years old
- With breast, bowel and prostate cancers survival is highest in middle age
- Malignant melanoma has the highest survival rate with 90% of cases surviving over 10yrs
Cancer Support: Screening and Symptom Check-Ups
Screening processes make a huge contribution to improved survival rates. Early detection of cancer significantly influences treatment options and survival outcomes.
In England (2016) almost 4 in 10 of all cancer cases were diagnosed through an urgent suspected cancer referral and 6 in 10 cancer cases diagnosed through an emergency route were at the latest stage.
This highlights the importance of attending regular screenings or investigating any abnormal symptoms to your GP. Especially with regards to breast, testis or any skin changes. Also breathing difficulty, a constant cough, altered bowel movements, urinary issues or unexplained discharges should all be examined.
Currently, in the UK routine bowel, cervical and breast screening services are offered to specific age groups. Whilst the uptake of bowel screening has increased slightly, breast and cervical screening have fallen.
As mentioned before women tend to be more observant and report symptoms quicker than men which is possibly the reason for greater survival rates.
It’s understandable as the symptoms may be deemed embarrassing if related to an intimate body part or bodily functions. Sometimes the fear of a diagnosis may also play a role in delaying medical care and in clinics I’ve seen many cases of individuals too busy to deal with the situation and potential inconvenience it will cause.
Personally, I have listed all the above in the past as a reason not to address symptoms and regretted it hugely because once I finally obtained professional help the sense of relief was immense, even just obtaining a diagnosis.
Cancer Support: Nutrition and Lifestyle Modifications
Let’s focus on some of the good news… approximately 4 in 10 (38% or 135,000) cases are preventable.
There’s increasing research emerging about the importance of the human microbiome in cancer risk and prevention.
It’s also apparent that metabolic and hormonal processes can be both a cause and driver of cancer disease processes.
Nutrition, environment, sleep, emotional and social health play a fundamental role in influencing each of these. This means there are daily habits that could lower your risk of cancer or support treatment by changing the balance of organisms in your body and your hormone profile.
Generally, oncologists aren’t huge fans of nutritionists and the use of supplements and I completely understand why this is the case.
There’s a great deal of misinformation being circulated by some so-called nutrition professionals, many promoting extreme diets and claiming specific food groups are linked to cancer.
Supplement usage is also an issue as many can interfere with oncological treatment and may fuel cancer growth. Luckily increasing amounts of research are identifying what is safe and supportive and what should be avoided.
The frustration with media and social media messaging around cancer is that it gets tied up with the usual agendas about what is ‘good or ‘bad.’ It all creates a degree of distraction from what the evidence currently tells us about nutrition, lifestyle and cancer.
The conflicting information can also segregate people into camps, some believing solutions lie with conventional treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. Whilst others choose the alternative route with a mix of natural interventions and complementary medicine.
The reality is the future of cancer care should be a combined approach, one that is currently promoted by the British Society for Integrative Oncology (BSIO)
The BSIO encourages the integration of conventional, psychological, nutritional, lifestyle and complementary medicine into cancer care. Its vision is for everyone is to have access to evidence-based, comprehensive, integrative healthcare following a cancer diagnosis.
I’ve put together a series of helpful blogs that you use to equip yourself with important facts about cancer and share with others. Whilst there are no guarantees there are plenty of steps we can all take to minimise our risk of any disease and support better health outcomes should a diagnosis arise.
Next time I’ll be sharing more about the impact of nutrition and diet debates around cancer.
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