Cancer, prevention instructions

Cancer, prevention instructions

Cancer prevention doesn’t just involve the scales. You also need a tape measure. Because it is precisely by measuring the abdominal circumference, and therefore the extent of visceral fat, that we can understand whether or not we are following those good habits capable of reducing the risk of developing cancer. Up to 40% of new cancer cases, the AIRC Foundation reminds us, are potentially preventable or more curable when we act on risk factors that can be modified through individual behaviour: not smoking, doing physical activity, choosing a healthy and balanced diet, adhering screening recommended for early diagnosis.

Italians bring up the rear for lifestyles in Europe

But in the lifestyle report card, Italians are postponed until September: the latest data in fact say that in our country approximately 33% of people are overweight and 10% obese, 31% are sedentary and 24% smoke. In other words, about a third of adults have risk factors for developing cancer. The most worrying numbers concern school-age children: approximately 39% are overweight and, of these, 17% are obese. These numbers are among the highest in Europe, mainly due to insufficient physical activity and a diet that has moved away from the principles of the Mediterranean diet.

Precisely to raise citizens’ awareness of the importance of correct nutrition, the AIRC Foundation is proposing the campaign again this year Healthy Oranges: in the coming days, tens of thousands of volunteers and supporters will meet in the streets, while students and teachers will mobilize within schools, to raise funds and spread awareness about the importance and urgency of prevention.

“Oranges – he confirms Antonio Moschetta, full professor of internal medicine at the Aldo Moro University of Bari – certainly represent one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, together with fruit in general, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, minimally refined carbohydrates, but also physical activity and respect for meal times”. This is why the orange is the symbol of this campaign: because the major studies – adds Moschetta – underline how the Mediterranean diet is truly the paradigm of longevity. But also the ability to get sick less, and to make therapies more effective.

Metabolism and tumors, a complicated relationship

At the basis of this phenomenon is the tumor’s metabolism. Whenever they are faced with cancer, researchers ask themselves questions: what energy does the tumor use to grow like that, and who provides it? Why, given the same conditions, in a certain subject does the tumor grow at a given speed and in another it grows at ten times the speed? “Our studies are aimed at understanding what fuels this growth capacity. We ask ourselves, for example, whether it is the circulating levels of hormones, the levels of inflammation, or whether it is not precisely the cells that have the task of surrounding and silencing the diseased cells, which in some metabolic conditions give a greater capacity to these last to be aggressive.” It is as if, to borrow a metaphor from the immunologist Alberto Mantovani, the cells that should act as policemen, surround the criminal and stop his run, in the obese metabolic subject – who eats poorly and does not pay attention to his lifestyle – they turned into corrupt policemen and instead of blocking growth they brought him food.

“In the case of breast cancer, for example, the numbers say that out of 250,000 women studied 10 years after the first diagnosis, those who – with the same stage, type of tumor and treatment performed – had abdominal obesity, had 25 % less chance of good prognosis at 5 years. Therefore, for this and other tumors, metabolic dysmetabolism drives not only the possibility of becoming more ill, preventing prevention from being achieved in time, but also the functioning of current therapies”, adds the scholar.

This relationship with waistline numbers, weight and data relating to blood sugar and cholesterol levels is not true for all tumors, warns Moschetta, however. So be careful, we need tailoring in prevention as well as in treatment. But it is a fact that tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, esophagus and especially colon, together with liver tumors, are increasing in frequency after the age of 65, precisely because the so-called fatty liver disease is increasing. This is why prevention through lifestyle and nutrition becomes essential to get sick less, and to allow us to treat ourselves better.

AIRC’s Health Oranges

For this reason, the AIRC Foundation invites everyone to act personally, adopting healthier habits and supporting research to prevent, diagnose and treat all tumors earlier and better. Health Oranges will be in the squares Saturday 27 January, with 20,000 volunteers distributing nets of blood oranges grown in Italy (contribution of 13 euros), orange blossom honey (10 euros) and orange marmalade (8 euros). From 2 February, blood oranges for research will also be available in supermarkets to support the work of AIRC researchers: for each net purchased, AIRC receives 50 euro cents. To find the nearest distribution point:

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