Armed with the knowledge of what cancer really is, I had the general idea where to look for the culprit in the case of my father. He was an active smoker for more than 40 years and, quite naturally, I assumed that smoking is what gave him cancer. But, there is a lot more to it than you would expect and I was surprised by the amount of cancer causing stuff we are surrounded by.
Gene mutations are occurring naturally in the body, but many other external factors contribute to the process. Let me start with an obvious one, the one I thought I was most familiar with.
Let’s get one thing straight: you are surrounded by radiation all the time: Sun’s natural radiation, radio waves (gsm networks, wifi, television), natural element radiation (like potassium 40 isotope), etc.
The thing you have to realize is that there are two types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. I’ll try to explain it as simple as possible.
Radiation is basically a stream of high energy particles radiating from a source. In the case of non-ionising radiation (wifi, gsm, television, etc), these particles go through your body without causing any changes. On the other hand, ionizing radiation particles (radiation from nuclear weaponry, nuclear waste, Roentgen tubes, etc.), sometimes cause changes in your DNA and that causes gene mutations and other problems. And as we know, that creates cancerous growths.
A natural question to ask is: if Roentgen causes cancer, how come it is used all the time? Well, another important factor is the time of the exposure. As it turns out, time is crucial when it comes to radiation. I often wondered how come when I go to X-ray my teeth, I get a Lead bib while my doctor goes behind a huge concrete wall imbued with Lead? Well, X-ray is a strong form of radiation, but if I get exposed to it once a year for a second, it makes no difference to me. But for a doctor who works with it 8 hours a day, the exposure is a lot longer and he needs more protection. The same logic applies to the Sun’s UV rays. Have you ever wondered why doctor tells you to immediately report if you have a strange mole on your skin? A mole is already a mutated growth, but when exposed to UV rays, these mutations can get worse and you can develop skin cancer. For that purpose, if you are planning to sunbathe (prolonged exposure to UV rays) you are advised to use sunblock. Arbitrarily speaking, “weaker” radiation over a longer period of time causes more mutations and negative effects than “stronger” radiation over a couple of seconds. To confirm the accuracy of this statement, let’s jump to another trigger and explain it.
It is a widespread misconception that smoking causes cancer. Let me state something quite inflammatory: smoking does not cause cancer, directly. This last word is the most important one in that sentence. You see, the pure act of smoking doesn’t necessarily mean you are increasing the gene mutation in your body. But what, how, and how often do you smoke definitely affects the mutation rate.
Starting with what, cigarettes are the worse. Not because the quality of tobacco is good or bad, but because of the stuff they treat the tobacco with. Some chemicals have ingredients that increase the gene mutation rate and raise the likelihood of developing cancerous growths. But not only that, the radioactive Polonium and Lead in cigarettes expose your lungs to small amounts of ionizing radiation. Which brings us to how often do you smoke. Like we already mentioned, it is the prolonged exposure to radiation that causes more mutations, and you can see how that correlates to smoking. One cigarette is not harmful, but one every hour most definitely is.
Your body basically uses chemistry processes to function properly. There is a thing called natural acidity of the body. Everything we eat and drink, do or don’t, affects this body state and in terms messes with our body chemistry. For example, carbonated water is acidic because of the CO2 that makes it sparkly. Does that mean that it causes cancer? No. But like we said, it messes with your body chemistry in a minute way. But if you combine all the minute triggers that you take daily, this acidity builds up. When this happens, your body struggles to function properly which again aids in gene mutation. So while this doesn’t directly cause cancer, unhealthy diets can increase (by a small margin) the likelihood of developing one.
Physical activity (or the lack of), obesity, inflammations, viruses can also have similar effects on your body.
There are plenty of other causes, but I only listed these because they have a much distorted public image and many misconceptions are held as science facts.
The hereditary factor
Finally, I want to address the hereditary factor. Sometimes, people are born with a predisposition for developing cancer. When you have a genetic predisposition, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will eventually get cancer. It only means that you are more susceptible to all these factors that increase the chances of developing cancer. That’s why for example, people sometimes (mastectomy as an example) opt to do preventive surgeries to avoid developing cancer.
All of these contribute in a minute way to the chances that you will develop cancer. Coupled with the natural gene mutations, you can understand the importance of knowledge regarding the subject in question. And the reason I am actually sharing this information with you is because I now look differently on the entire matter. Many people, including me a couple months ago, have no idea about this and they are simply misinformed. Hopefully, this will change they way you look at it as well.