So much time and effort is made trying to find a cure for cancer when the simple solution of exercise and a healthy diet can prevent 25% of cancers. Now that’s a significant number overall and even more significant if exercise and a healthy diet prevent you from getting cancer. Now I’m not suggesting that scientists and doctors stop looking for a cure for cancer only that we need to be spending more time and effort promoting a healthy lifestyle and all the benefits that come from proper diet and exercise.
Because most businesses do not make money promoting exercise and a healthy diet it is up to governments and non-profit organizations to take the lead. I know this is easier said than done but we need to help our governments make the right choice through ground roots activism and our vote at the ballot box.
Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer are the most common public health threats in the 21st century. Cancer accounted for about 19% of the total disease burden in Australia in 20101 and the Australian community pays about $3.8 billion per year in direct health system costs. With the increasing and ageing population, the burden caused by cancer and the direct costs to the community will only increase. More and more people are now living with a diagnosis of cancer, and this also has indirect costs in support and follow-up services.
Fortunately, in spite of the large and increasing impact of chronic diseases, they are also the most preventable diseases. Only about 5%–10% of cancers are due to genetic or inherited disorders, with the remainder being due to external factors (environmental factors or those related to human behavior). The best evidence for this is from studies of people who have migrated. Clearly, not all external factors associated with cancers are understood or quantified.
While the theoretical impact of primary prevention is substantial, motivating populations to improve their health status is difficult. Therefore, unless a concerted and significant effort is made to invest in and implement powerful preventive measures, the impact of primary prevention on reducing total cancer incidence over the coming decades will probably be relatively small. Preventive measures are unlikely to be initiated by governments and policymakers in Australia unless they are viewed as high priority. Typically, this requires quantitative evidence.
So what should you do? From a personal perspective the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet are enormous beyond cancer prevention so begin today to eat healthier and get regular physical exercise. From a society perspective consider donating time or money to charities and government projects whose objective is to promote a healthy lifestyle to the public. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step so start today towards your journey of a healthier and happier life.