Being diagnosed with cancer, or having a close friend or family member diagnosed with cancer often comes as nothing short of shocking. Realistically, it’s often ‘understandable’ that some people are at a greater risk of cancer than others, such as those who smoke or have very poor health habits. However for some, being given the diagnosis of cancer is an expectation that would be last on the list when it comes to health. So why are the ‘healthiest of healthy’ also at risk of cancer, what are some of the ‘hidden’ risks of cancer that contribute to being diagnosed with this disease, and what can you do about it?
Individual variability is probably one of the most understudied hidden risks of cancer. How any one person responds to any type of stimulus in life falls into a risk factor category that can be difficult to assess. It’s unlikely science will be able to identify and prove this particular cancer risk factor, however it’s a well established theory, noted often in clinical practice, that we all have biological and biochemical differences. Largely, what this means is that while one person may not respond as strongly to a particular risk factor for cancer (such as a sun burn), another person may only need to have been exposed to a cancer risk factor one time (one sun burn) to cause abhorrent changes in their body that eventually causes cancer. Because individual susceptibility and variability exists, yet is difficulty to confirm and measure, it adds a layer of complexity when it comes to predicting a potentially hidden risk of cancer.
Exposure and Exposure History
This underemphasized risk factor exists as a factor that, ultimately, can not be altered or changed. Once a person has been exposed to a potential carcinogen (or carcinogenic risk factor), you can’t then un-expose yourself after it’s already occurred. For example, you may have come into contact with a potentially carcinogenic causing virus years previous (see below). You can’t un-expose yourself to that one time exposure to said virus, thus, potential may exist that the one time exposure may play a role in developing cancer somewhere in the future. Many potentially ‘mild’ risk factors for cancer (currently unknown, or as described in this article) may be unavoidable, and unless your individual variability works in your favour (or you help it work in your favour), your risk, although ‘insignificant’, may ultimately go up.
We were all young once. Whether we lived a truly balanced life or not, even the healthiest of people can attest to ‘some’ form of unhealthy life choices in years past. Poor sleep choices and stress are lifestyle factors that, although not proven to cause cancer, still play a role in how our bodies keep us healthy over the course of a lifetime. So although your college years may have been the only years filled with late nights and inconsistent health practices, this could theoretically impact (even as a minor role) in the growth and development of cancer.
Chemicals (such as automobile fuel, home cleaning products, furniture, pesticides) are abundant throughout many peoples’ lives. Consequently, breathing in, coming into contact with, or consuming potentially ‘low cancer risk’ chemicals in the diet over time, can all contribute to the overarching risk of cancer during a lifetime. Food storage, such as chemically lined packaging, plastics, and preservatives, although not directly linked to cancer (yet), can all impact the overall function of ones optimal health as we age. Food itself, despite eating the ‘healthiest of diets’, still has the potential of not providing a person with 100% of what they need (or needed in the past), so can create many types of dietary deficiencies (or cancer risk factors) over time. Some viruses have actually been proven to be linked to cancer, despite not being affected by them at the time of exposure. Un-assumed radiation (cell phone towers, cell phones, power lines, electrical outlets), as well chronic low grade inflammation (caused by any of the aforementioned risk factors), can also be create an undetected lifetime exposure toward cancer growth, which may go undetected in an otherwise healthy person over time.
Does This Mean All Doom And Gloom?
There are likely many other identified and unidentified hidden risk factors of cancer. The goal is to optimize your chances of not getting cancer throughout your lifetime. Integrative (naturopathic) cancer care is able to consider the major and minor risk factors for cancer (even in the healthiest of people) and strategize effective support in order to reduce your risk even further. Cancer risk can never be fully eliminated or avoided, however predictably reducing your risk, while strengthening habits toward an anti cancer lifestyle, is a realistic approach resting on both reproducible clout and clinical merit.
Interested in learning what you can do to reduce your hidden cancer risks? Read my article on Reducing Your Hidden Risks Of Cancer.