Dr Sally NortonDr Sally Norton, NHS Weight Loss Surgeon & Health Expert, Founder of www.vavista-awards.com.  Founder of www.vavista.com

Recent reports seem to have dubbed cancer as just down to ‘poor luck’ – something I personally think could be really quite detrimental to many people’s outlook on the disease. That’s just the media slant. However, I’m hoping I might be able to shed a little bit of light onto this matter.

Firstly, the reports that you have seen will have been based on a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in Baltimore. The study claims that as many as two thirds of cancer cases are the result of ‘bad luck’. But what does this really mean? The study looked at the rate of random mutations in stem cells of various body tissues as they can be drivers of cancer. These mutations are errors that occur in our DNA during cell division and replication – the more that these mutations occur, the higher our chances of cancer.

The researchers looked at 31 types of cancer, analysing the number of stem cell divisions in each type, to work out how much of a risk cell mutations caused. What they found was that 65% of the cancers they analysed could be attributed to cell division, while the other 35% could be put down to hereditary or environmental factors.

However, the study was looking at tissues, not real people, and used computer models to extrapolate results. It wasn’t able to categorically say how much lifestyle could actually affect the rate of these mutations – or indeed whether the mutations would go on to cause cancer.

For me, this information isn’t too shocking. We’ve all heard of, or known people whose cancer diagnosis was met with disbelief, because of their enviably healthy and active lifestyle. Put simply, cancer may indeed strike at random, or as the recent news stories have put it, seem to be ‘down to bad luck’. But it’s not quite that simple.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Something many of the news stories have skipped over, is the fact that there are also many types of cancer that CAN be attributed to other factors – and in some cases, prevented by our own actions. We know that if we smoke like a chimney, our chances of getting lung cancer are at a much greater risk, or that excess alcohol can increase our risk of liver cancer. We know that viruses transmitted during unprotected sex can increase cervical cancer – which is why we are immunising teenage girls.

We are hearing more and more often how a diet high in vegetables or fibre can reduce the risk of certain cancers and we know very clearly that obesity increases the risk of cancer too. So there are many types of cancer that are clearly influenced by lifestyle. What’s more, I have heard the leading researcher in this study say that he still believes that lifestyle is a very important factor in affecting your cancer risk, as a poor lifestyle could actually increase your risk of those cancer-causing mutations happening.

So to sum up, while some cancers can be attributed to random DNA mutations (or just plain ‘bad luck’), there are many others that can in fact be helped by your efforts to stay fit and healthy.

My advice to you? While nobody can guarantee that your healthy lifestyle will safeguard you entirely against cancer, the fact is that by keeping yourself fit and healthy, you are helping to not only reduce your risk of getting certain cancers, but you’re helping to prevent numerous other diseases and illnesses, and helping to give yourself a healthier, more positive and energetic life to boot!