The main causes of cancer are not stress and preservatives, but overeating and smoking! This is assured by the world-renowned cancer researcher Prof. Anton Burns - known to our readers from previous publications, who has been studying oncology for 30 years. Prof. Burns debunks many of the myths about cancer and points out how we can ultimately lower our risk of getting the disease
Prof. Burns, many people are afraid of cancer, and the WHO forecast is alarming: by 2025, 19 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, and by 2035 - 24 million people. Is such a huge growth really expected?
- The forecast is expected, but things are not so dire. I immediately hasten to reassure people: thanks to the successes of medicine, the death rate from cancer is decreasing more and more, especially in countries with well-developed he alth care.
Why is it estimated that the number of cases will almost double?
- Firstly, there is no doubt that cancer is a disease of the elderly, in most cases it affects the elderly. And the population of the earth as a whole is aging. Medicine is increasingly successfully fighting many other diseases, prolonging our lives, and eventually people live to the age when cancer most often develops. Another important reason why the number of cancer patients will increase in the future is that they are a consequence of mass smoking. The statistics based on medical research are unforgiving: many smokers, if they live to old age, will be diagnosed with cancer of the lungs or larynx or liver or bladder.
Of course, many people will say: ecology is bad, and you only talk about smoking. If we are to be serious, however, in principle, a person does incomparably more harm to himself by his own behavior than by the influence of the environment. I.e. a decisive role in the development of cancer is played by reasons directly dependent on the person himself. And in the first place is smoking. In second place unfortunately are infections and viruses that can be avoided if you stay away from them.
So we can get infected from cancer?
- You may become infected with a virus that causes changes in the body leading to cancer. For example, viral hepatitis B and C damage the liver, the body tries to recover and the cells begin to actively divide. As a result, inflammation occurs and there is a high risk of degeneration of part of the cells into malignant ones. There are other viruses associated with a high risk of cancer. For example, the likelihood of developing cervical cancer is often found in those who have many sexual partners. Because this type of cancer occurs when infected with the sexually transmitted papilloma virus.
How about the HPV vaccine? Some experts believe it does more harm than good
- Not true, the vaccine works great. The problem is something else. As practice in our country, in the Netherlands, shows, vaccination can have an unexpectedly negative effect in the following sense. The girl thinks: "Now I'm reliably protected, so I don't need to be regularly examined by a gynecologist, I don't need to think about additional protection during my sexual contacts".
Prof. Dr. Anton Burns
After all, the current vaccine protects against about 80% of the varieties of the papillomavirus, but not all. And in no way does it save from hepatitis B, C and other dangerous sexually transmitted diseases. So it is necessary to soberly assess the effect of vaccination, to approach the choice of partners wisely and not to neglect visits to the doctor.
Doctors say that many women over 30-35 years old are carriers of some types of papilloma viruses. If the vaccine is intended to protect against other varieties, is it worth vaccinating them at this age?
- No, the vaccine only protects if the girl is vaccinated before starting sexual life, and then the vaccination is repeated at the age of 19 - 20 years. I advise grown girls to regularly give a pap smear for examination and be examined by a specialist. Because cervical cancer is easily detected at an early stage and treated successfully accordingly.
Are there other viruses that provoke the development of cancer?
- Yes, this is a known group of herpes viruses, including the Epstein-Barr virus. Research shows that this virus increases the risk of developing leukemia.
Is it true that stomach cancer can be caused by Helicobacter pylori?
- By itself, this bacterium cannot cause the development of cancer. But it damages the stomach lining, leading to an ulcer. And the same mechanism of damage as the liver in hepatitis is unlocked. I.e. the risk of cancer actually increases. I'll reassure you though: Nowadays, stomach ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori are successfully treated with antibiotics.
And what about the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors in modern products? How big is the role of "chemistry" in the development of stomach cancer and other oncological diseases?
- These fears are greatly exaggerated. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that such ingredients seriously increase the risk of cancer. Much more dangerous from the point of view of cancer diseases is excess weight. Research shows that obesity is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer and a number of other cancers. If we talk about the products, then for the purpose of prevention, I would advise not to abuse red meat - beef and mutton. It is better to refrain from them, consume them rarely, as studies show that their use increases the risk of bowel cancer.
Maybe it's best to switch to a vegetarian diet?
- The truth is, vegetarians suffer less from cancer. But I think it's because they generally lead a he althier lifestyle. Usually, these people are thin and slender, not overweight, which increases the risk of cancer. The main thing is a he althy diet that does not lead to obesity. And exercise, of course.
And is sport a means of preventing cancer?
- Yes, you could say. Physical exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. In particular, women who actively play sports are less likely to get breast cancer. Because reasonable physical exertion normalizes hormonal cycles, while the opposite - breakdowns in cycles increase the risk of developing cancer. There is another observation: breast cancer is unfortunately most common in women who give birth in adulthood. This is related to the hormonal background: during pregnancy, the production of the hormone estrogen increases, it stimulates the activity of stem cells in the human body, and such cells are most prone to degenerate into cancer. That is why too strong estrogenic activity is not useful at all.