Causes and prevention of cancer except tobacco and smoking

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

By Dr Shyam Sundar Gupta, PhD

Cancer causes

Medicinal agents

The medicinal agents that have been linked to human cancer are estrogenic compounds, for example diethylstilbestrol (DES), oral contraceptives and menopausal estrogens. The hormonal and immunosuppressive drugs may cause cancer risks (1, 2).


The infectious agents causing cancer in human are the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, various viruses (hepatitis B and C viruses, human Papilloma viruses, Epstein-Barr virus, human immunodeficiency virus, human herpes virus 8 and human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I), schistosomes and liver flukes (3).

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution plays a serious role in lung cancer. The people who burn solid fuel (coal, wood and honeycomb coal) for cooking the whole time their life have 4 times the risk of lung cancer in comparison to those who use clean energy.  Heatable brick bed exposure also causes 8 times more risk of lung cancer. Burning for heating the bed happens in the bedroom during the winter. Windows are closed during winter nights so all pollutants originated from a combustion increase in the bedroom to higher levels (4).


High intake of alcohol causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, both men and women, and breast cancer in women (5).

Red meat and processed meat

Red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton) and processed meat increase colorectal cancer risk by 20-30%. Red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton) increases risk of colon and rectum cancer by 20-30%, and it is also linked with some other cancers, such as pancreatic and prostate cancer. Processed meat (hot dogs, bacon, sausages, and luncheon meats) also increases the risk of colorectal and stomach cancer. Processed meats are preserved by smoking, salting, curing, and chemical preservatives (6, 7). According to guidelines, the recommended a safe quantity of red meat for good health of individuals is 0.5 kg per week or 70 g per day. White meat (fish and poultry) is safe and it doesn’t cause colorectal cancer (8).

Sex hormones

Sex hormone concentrations are strongly linked with breast cancer risk (9). The circulating concentrations of estrogens and androgens in postmenopausal women are linked with breast cancer risk due to increasing levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and androstenedione. Increased adrenal androgen synthesis causes breast cancer (10, 11, 12). The adiposity may cause breast cancer in postmenopausal women due to an increase in endogenous estrogens, and decreasing in sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels (13).

Cancer Prevention (14)

  • Maintain healthy body weight and stay away from excess body weight gain.
  • Do physical exercise and avoid consumption of high‐calorie diets and drinks.
  • Consume healthy plant foods.
  • Consume processed meat and red meat in the limit.
  • Take vegetables and fruits daily.
  • Consume whole grains in place of refined grain products.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in the limit.

Take alcoholic beverages no more than 2 drinks daily for men or 1 drink daily for women.


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