It is estimated that there are currently one million Canadians surviving cancer, which will improve significantly in the years to come as treatment improves and the population ages. In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of treatment, survivors of cancer in many cases are at risk of recurrence, especially if certain types of cancer are difficult to treat (lung, colon, or esophagus, for example).
However, studies show that it is possible to reduce the risk of these recurrences in many cases by adopting good lifestyle habits, especially the absence of tobacco, a plant-based diet, maintaining a normal body weight and regular physical activity.
Another risk factor for cancer survivors, not so well known, is the development of another primary cancer, which affects another organ in the body. Unlike recurrences of the first cancer, these second cancers may be caused by an individual’s genetic predisposition to develop cancer, which may be the result of treatments used to treat the first cancer (cancer mutations caused by chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy, for example) or the same bad lifestyle habits that caused the first cancer. (Smoking, es arrhythmia, alcohol abuse, physical inactivity) (1).
According to a recent study, of all these possibilities, it plays a very important role in the development of secondary cancer (2).
Analyzing data collected from 1.5 million adult cancer survivors between 1992 and 2017, the researchers found that survivors of adult cancer had a higher risk of developing second cancer compared to the general population. Primary (11% in men and 10% in women) and risk of death after diagnosis (45% in men and 33% in women).
Risks of secondary primary cancer are 18 of the 30 most common primary cancers in men and 21 of the 31 most common primary cancers in women.
Smoking and es arrears
It is noteworthy that many of these additional risks appear to be from lifestyle risk factors common to first and second primary cancers. For example, those who survived the first cancer associated with smoking had a higher risk of secondary cancers caused by tobacco, and these cancers accounted for more of the second cancers listed in the study.
Studies show that smoking kills a large percentage of cancer survivors, thus increasing the risk of tobacco-related cancer. Thus, the four cancers mainly caused by tobacco (lungs, bladder, oral cavity / pharynx and esophagus) account for 26% of all secondary cancers and 45% of all related deaths. Lung cancer accounts for only one-third of all secondary cancer deaths.
Studies show that people who survive multiple esophageal cancers have a higher risk of developing secondary cancer, which can lead to weight gain.
Of those who survived all early cancers, the four cancers most commonly associated with esophagitis (colorectal, pancreatic, uterine, and liver) accounted for 35% of deaths from secondary cancers. Previous studies have shown that survivors of breast cancer and colorectal cancer have a higher risk of developing second cancer, which is associated with obesity.
Give a boost
Despite the trauma caused by the diagnosis of cancer, studies have shown that most of those infected do not change their habits significantly and therefore many survivors are thus at high risk. By the recurrence of their cancer or by the appearance of a second specific cancer.
For example, in the United States, 12% of cancer survivors are smokers, 67% are overweight, 32% have ese arrears, and 34% do not engage in regular physical activity.
So there is a lot of chance of avoiding these second cancers: instead of being discouraged by the fact that it is too late to be diagnosed with cancer and making no sense in changing your lifestyle, you can, on the contrary, raise the bar and fundamentally change these habits to improve your chances of survival. Eating an abundance of plants, being physically active and maintaining a normal body weight are all daily activities that reduce the risk of recurrence and significantly improve healthy longevity.
- (1) Travis LB et al. Etiology, genetics, and prevention of secondary neoplasms in adult cancer survivors. Not. Rev. Clin. Oncol. 2013; 10: 289-301.
- (2) Sung H. et al. The first primary cancer association in the United States with a risk of developing primary cancer among survivors of adult-early cancers. Jama 2020; 324: 2521-2535.