Cancer always comes to mind when we think of serious medical conditions that seem inevitable.
The CDC reported 1.7 million new cancer cases in 2019, along with about 600,000 cancer-related deaths. That puts cancer at number two on the list of leading causes of death in the U.S., behind only heart disease.
On the bright side, the rate of cancer deaths has actually gone down over the past two decades, thanks in large part to earlier screening options, improvements in treatment, and vaccines for viruses like hepatitis B and human papillomavirus that can lead to cancer.
However, even though the cancer death rate has decreased, new cancer cases continue to rise. Part of the explanation for this trend could be that we are living longer. As life expectancy increases, some experts expect cancer cases to increase since cancer is so closely associated with age.
This brings us to the question we started with. Is cancer inevitable as we age? Is it less a matter of if and more a matter of when?
Cancer is hard to cure because preventable risk factors vary by individual
The latest research suggests that for most adults, cancer does not have to be an inevitable consequence of growing older. While genetics and age play a critical factor in assessing the risk profile for someone developing cancer, there is no research to suggest that it is an inevitable outcome at a certain age. Even for people with a genetic predisposition for certain cancers, it is important to understand that genetics only loads the gun. It is our lifestyle that pulls the trigger.
In fact, a recent study that came out just last month found that almost half of cancer deaths are entirely preventable. The study looked at worldwide cancer figures and found that nearly 50% of cancer deaths are caused by preventable risk factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, unhealthy diets, unsafe sex, and workplace exposure to harmful products, such as asbestos.
It is noteworthy that these findings come from the most extensive study ever conducted to investigate the link between cancer burden and risk factors.
The key takeaway? Our short-term and long-term health is more controllable than many of us realize. Even when it comes to serious conditions like cancer, which seem to strike indiscriminately, there is so much we can do to lower our risk profile.
Health is a never-ending journey that requires hard work, discipline, and consistency, but if you put in the work now, you’ll always have yourself to thank for it tomorrow.
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