Ever since I was diagnosed with colon cancer I’ve wondered what I could have done to prevent it. What did I do wrong? There definitely were warning signs that I ignored because there was no family history of colon cancer and I always considered myself relatively healthy. But what I mean is, what caused the cancer before I missed those warning signs? While I wasn’t a ‘health nut’ I always ate what I thought was a relatively balanced diet with only rare trips to fast food establishments compared to most people. In hind site that probably wasn’t good enough. I always thought a healthy diet was that square meal of a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and a glass of milk. I was pretty light on fruit.
I looked at family history. I was fortunate enough to have doctors that ordered genetic testing that confirmed I had no genetic predisposition to colon cancer. So my daughter can rest a little easier in that knowledge (even though she should start being checked at an age 10 years before my age at diagnosis), not to mention my parents (whom are still living) and siblings and their children.
Typically the two main ’causes’ for cancer are genetic and environmental. Since it was proven not to be genetic in nature that leaves environmental. Environmental causes can be as personal as lifestyle choices and other things an individual has control over. Exposure to smoking, second-hand smoke, chlorinated/fluorinated drinking water, dental fillings containing mercury, processed food intake, stress and anything you put in or on your body right down to your deodorant or makeup choices are all things you can control at the individual level. I even learned recently that high fructose corn syrup that is in so much processed food and soda actually contains mercury! Could the advent of high fructose corn syrup in soda starting in the early 1980s be contributing to the increased incidence of cancer diagnoses we are finding today? The only soda I now drink is on that rare occasion I can find soda containing sugar.
But there are more granular environmental causes of cancer that we have less control over. While researching the internet in my quest for answers I found an interactive map that shows cancer rates by cancer type, sex, age, race, timeframe and location. It’s quite remarkable to see a definite relationship between location and cancer type. Try it out for your cancer if you’ve been diagnosed or by location if you are cancer free to see what your risks are.
Not surprising is that melanoma is much more prevalent in the sunnier parts of the United States. But less obvious and more curious are other types of cancer that seem to have regional preferences. For instance colon and rectal cancers are more prevalent in the northern states and east to west from Maine to Minnesota. Can we conclude that this may be due to a lack of sunshine and Vitamin D? Vitamin D has gotten a lot of press lately and I cannot overstate the importance of monitoring your Vitamin D levels. It will be interesting to see if cancer rates change for areas low in the sunshine department as more people take control of their Vitamin D levels. But there are other areas that have a low percentage of sunny days (aren’t there?). So Vitamin D probably is not the only environmental cause that might be coming into play by location.
Digging deeper, other possibilities come to mind like drinking water source (i.e. the Great Lakes or desalinated ocean water for other locations), availability and quality of fresh local produce, soils depleted of minerals and agricultural practice differences, and herbicide/pesticide use and any combination thereof. This area is also more highly industrialized. Byproducts of industrialization could be in play such as asbestos use for mesothelioma patients. The map shows a similar pattern of prevalence by location for mesothelioma as in colon and rectal cancers. Less obvious industry related causes might be things such as toxic waste storage and removal, nuclear power plants and radon. I have learned that there was a period of time that a gravel substitute byproduct from area steel mills was used to back fill around the footers of the basements of new homes. It was later found that this gravel substitute emitted radon for up 10 years or more to the unsuspecting residents.
Bottom line… there are two major causes for cancer, genetic and environmental. The best prevention for genetic predisposition is to know the symptoms and be observant to what you body may be telling you. You really don’t have much control over your genetics. However you do have control over environmental factors which may be as personal as stress in your life or as granular as the region where you live.
I don’t want to come across as appearing paranoid of everything I expose my self to, however I do keep a more watchful eye on what I consume by taking a few extra seconds to read product labels, avoid known or suspected carcinogens and making sure my body gets the nutrients it needs to fight those cancer cells that supposedly everyone has. Now that hydrogen peroxide has restored my health and given me back my life, I want to treat my body right. Since I’ve been fortunate enough to be given a second chance, I want to keep my body cancer free and as healthy as possible!
So check out the map and ask yourself what is in your environment that might be working against your health and do your best to change it. Your health depends on it. We know that location and environmental factors are not everything, however they are important and at least you have control over them.