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Cancer – A disease of civilization

Department of General Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Department of General Medicine, Kasturba Medical College, Mangaluru, Karnataka, India
Corresponding author: Jonnalagadda Vihari, Department of General Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 License, which allows others to remix, transform, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as the author is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.

How to cite this article: Vihari J, Sahu S, Das C, Jena SR, Meher M, Sriteja N. Cancer – A disease of civilization. Med India 2022;1:16.


Cancer is not a rare condition; it impacts around one in ten of us, a statistic we must seriously consider. Cancer and cardiovascular disease have long been the leading causes of death.[1,2] If we go past 50–70 years, heart attacks and strokes were the leading causes of death among Indians; cancer was a rather remote cause. However, the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease has been decreasing rapidly, and cancer has increased rapidly.[3] This is due to the complexity of the condition of cancer and the way that we perceive it. What exactly it is, we are unsure. So for such a widespread illness, it is ambiguous why we acquire this cancerous condition. As we think about it, it could not make sense for the spite to grow as it is an essential component of us. For instance, if we develop breast cancer or lung cancer, the cancerous cell was originally derived from our natural cells.

For example, when we have a cancerous breast cell derived from normal breast tissue, but after it evolves, it grows or does not grow, depending on the availability of the growth factors. Normal breast or lung cells work together as a team and always assist the body, but cancerous cells are not motivated to work as a team; instead, they are concerned with ensuring their existence so they can surpass their neighboring cells. They keep expanding and will eventually obliterate their surroundings. Later, they begin to move about, which is bad for the entire body. It benefits the cancerous cells themselves by dispersing throughout the body. As a result, it is almost an alien invader that has developed from us.

The main risk factors for cancer are genetics and smoking; however, there are many additional risk factors (carcinogens). Similar to how smoking increases our chance of developing lung cancer, even though we can smoke indefinitely without developing the disease, there are other factors that we know very little about. We need to understand more about those factors. While genetics play a factor, I believe one of the biggest mistakes we have made over the years is to place so much emphasis on it, leading us to believe that a random mutation causes cancer. So the idea about cancer is that cancer is like a seed. If we have a genetic risk factor, we tend to develop cancer. Each human cell and the cells of all multicellular organisms contain the cancerous seed. We will maximize our chance of getting cancer if we create the ideal conditions for that seed to sprout. The cancer issue is that we don’t fully comprehend what it is as a disease. From this perspective, I will now discuss the concept of cancer as a disease and its causation.


Arterial blockages bring on heart disease; therefore, we have created a wide range of treatments, including blood thinners, balloons to clear blocked vessels, and new technology like imaging to monitor patients as we learn more about the illness’s roots. It is difficult to correct anything if we do not even know the root problem. It is quite challenging to fix a vehicle if we notice a random clank and do not know, where the clanking is coming from. The same is true for diseases; if, for instance, we see COVID, we know a virus causes it; we, at least, have a starting point for creating a vaccine or some anti-viral medications. However, if we do not know what this illness is, we won’t know how to proceed. The true puzzle has been figuring out what it is, which is something we must do first.

There is absolutely no reason why we really cannot avoid cancer. Notably, those who resided in traditional societies, such as Inuit or American Indians before their westernization or Africans before their assimilation into western civilization, were thought to be resistant to cancer. Of course, as they grew more westernized and began consuming sugar and white flour, they began developing similar types of cancer. Traditional Africans do not develop cancer, but when they adopt a western-style diet and civilization, they begin to develop the disease. Indeed, it was referred to as a disease of modernization. Thus, none of these diseases such as obesity, diabetes, or cancer were identified among people who lived traditionally. Everyone must acknowledge that the soil was distinct. We can lower our threat if we can comprehend this.

It is similar to sugars, one of the essential items, we must significantly reduce. Whatever food that was highly processed [excessively refined] is most likely not good for our health. Consume things that are somewhat close to their original condition. The frequency of our meals is most likely the next crucial factor. Constant eating creates an environment that is favorable for the growth of cancer. We must, thus, go again to kind of how cancer grows to realize why this is.

Our bodies have certain nutrient sensors that alert us when food is around. Certain hormones, such as insulin, increase when we consume and signal to all our cells that there is a supply of food and that we should expand; we do not want our cells to multiply in the absence of nourishment. It just seems logical that we would need to get rid of some of these unnecessary cells if there was no nourishment. If we are feeding all the time around the clock (6–8 times a day), these nutrient sensors will be activated continuously. Moreover, we are telling our bodies to grow continuously. We will shut off all those activation signals if we eat fewer meals – say, 3 times a day, practice intermittent fasting, or skip meals entirely. As a result, this malignancy will find it more challenging to spread. Without insulin, we are unable to develop breast cancer cells in the laboratory for instance.

Adult growth is typically undesirable; a high-growth atmosphere, of course, encourages unchecked cancer progression. Moreover, it was why, for instance, vitamins were not a good idea. Because it essentially promotes cell proliferation, several studies[4,5] have shown that giving patients vitamin supplements increase cancer. In reality, ’it is similar to spraying fertilizers on an open field; we want crops to grow, but a lot of weeds sprout. All we receive are the weeds as we throw down all this development signaling material.

Not just what and how much we eat, but also how frequently we eat, is important. As compared to the 1960s, how humans consume nowadays is significantly different. Individuals, in 1960, consumed breakfast, lunch, and dinner 3 times daily. Back then, nobody did eat snacks. And today, many claims that are often eating (6–8 times/day) are healthy for us, although this is something that has never been practiced in the history of humanity.


Since most of us are not malnourished in our current state, we wish to slow down the process closely associated with cancer progression. There are a few different ways to do this. One is to alter the foods that we consume, such as refined carbs like sugar which constitutes the majority of our diet. Another option is to alter how frequently we consume.


We give the rights to the corresponding author to make necessary changes as per the request of the journal, do the rest of the correspondence on our behalf, and they will act as the guarantor for the manuscript on our behalf.

Author’s contributions

Jonnalagadda Vihari: Concepts, Design, Data acquisition, Manuscript preparation. Samir Sahu: Definition of intellectual content. Chandan Das: Manuscript editing and review. Samir Ranjan Jena: Literature search, Manuscript editing and review. Meghanad Meher: Manuscript editing and review. Neerukonda Sriteja: Literature search, Data analysis.


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