The fight against cancer is ever going, from the time we go to sleep, to the time we wake, being seen for thousands of years and throughout the world. In today’s age the word itself is known by just about everyone, yet most people have no idea what exactly it is, what causes it, and how the environment we live in is contributing to it.
As defined by the National Cancer Institute, cancer is a class of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and show the ability to spread (metastasize) throughout the body. There are more than 100 types of cancers, in which are named for where they originate i.e. colon cancer originated in the colon. In order to understand what cancer is it is helpful to understand that all cells divide in a controlled fashion, it is only when the genetic makeup of these cells is changed or damaged allows dangerous mutations to occur. Researchers have estimated that as many as two-thirds of cases of cancer are linked in one way or another to an environmental factor.
These environmental factors could be anything from the air we breathe, to the water and food we consume, to even exposure to radiation and infectious agents. Certain types of exposures are linked to specific cancers. For example, Benzidine (chemical found in various dyes) is linked to bladder cancer, exposure of asbestos is linked to lung cancer and certain carcinogens from tobacco use are linked to several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, lung, and esophagus.
Globally people in Europe and North America and other more developed countries throughout the world are at the highest risk to be diagnosed with the disease compared to undeveloped countries. On the other hand developed countries have a much higher rate of surviving the disease than that of undeveloped countries, due to better healthcare services and screening. Pollution at all levels and various agents in more populated and industrial developed environments display a direct role in rates of cancer diagnosis. Eradicating the disease is not as simple as just removing the carcinogens but rather changing the lifestyle and way of life of millions. Denmark is known as the “Cancer Capital of the World” due to its high air carcinogen pollution and unhealthy life styles. With 326 of 100,000 people each year developing the new disease each year, the country is a place most would put towards the bottom of their vacation destinations.
From the time we are born to the time we die, we as mankind are exposed to carcinogens regularly. Chemicals found is our gasoline such as benzene, radon in the basements of our homes, to even traces of arsenic in our drinking water are known carcinogens that are found in our everyday lives. On October of 2013, the World Health Organization of all things added air pollution to the list of carcinogens, citing that the air we breathe killed over two-hundred thousand people with the only solution of to “clean up the air”. There are numerous regulations and restrictions already in place in American and numerous other countries to prevent carcinogens from entering our lives, yet they are everywhere. Exercise and dieting is at the top of the list in prevention of the disease especially in the more prevalent overweight developed countries, supporting a direct “push” away from our unhealthy life styles.
It is estimated that one in every two men and one and every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. With such a high statistical rate in diagnosis linked to environmental causes this issue should be at the top of the list for environmental concern.