How to Make Cancer Far Less Common

That cancers are increasing over time is itself not all that surprising. We are after all living longer. Undoubtedly age is a risk factor for cancer so naturally this is to be expected. What is surprising though is that cancers appear to be increasing at younger ages. The illustration below from this month’s issue of Nature indicates that a higher percentage of people under the age of 50 years are developing cancer. This is unexpected and requires an explanation.

Fortunately treatments are getting better over time as well and so the death rates from cancers are still declining over time (at least to now). And yet, how much better it would be to prevent cancer rather than treat it however successfully after it develops.

Here’s how to make sense of what we are experiencing. Truth be told, we don’t exactly know the reason for increasing rates of cancers at relatively young ages. What we do know though is that apart from our failure to follow the known healthy lifestyle habits, we are also increasingly creating all sorts of unnatural chemical and environmental exposures on account of the vast number of products and services we create and consume.

PFAS is a term you might start to hear about increasingly. It stands for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These and other chemicals are an increasingly common “forever chemicals”. They practically resist decomposing and remain in our environment forever (or at least a very long time). They contaminant our drinking water and accumulate in fish and other wildlife. All of us are inevitably exposed to these (it’s thought to be in the blood of 98% of the human population). Likewise, we all consume microplastics in our drinking water. We don’t really know the implications for how these impact our health.

If we include those cancers preventable by avoiding exposure to a myriad of known and unknown environmental toxins, my guess is that instead of preventing 40% of cancers (thought to be preventable through a healthy lifestyle), a good majority of cancers arising at younger ages are probably altogether preventable. But I don’t have the evidence to back up this claim. Its only a hypothesis. We probably don’t know enough about the various toxins and how they relate to cancer rates to make definitive conclusions. On the other hand, clearly, genetic factors alone do not explain the rising rates.

The conclusion I’m hoping to direct you towards is obvious to those used to reading my blogs: mindless consumerism by which we unintentionally generate a myriad of carcinogens (known and unknown) is THE underlying reason for the burden of cancer (and of course various other chronic diseases) we face today.


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