Aging is inevitable, but can cancer be prevented?

Posted in , , by Echelon Health

All throughout your life, you may have kept yourself healthy in every way within your control. However, is there anything any of us can do to avoid the biggest risk factor of developing cancer?

Eating healthy, exercising, reducing alcohol intake and not smoking all play a part in reducing risk of developing cancer. In the UK, it is estimated that four in ten cancer cases were attributable to preventable causes, at 38.6% in men and 36.8% in women. This accounts for smoking tobacco (15.1%), obesity (6.3%), alcohol (3.3%), UV radiation (3.8%) and more (Oswald, 2018).

Fortunately, while the incidents of cancer are higher among the older people, new treatments and technologies are helping to provide more positive outcomes for those diagnosed with cancer. Treatment can help improve length and quality of life for those who are diagnosed. In some cases, with early detection the disease can be prevented entirely if caught early enough.

The statistics about cancer and age

In the UK, the peak rate of cancer cases was among those aged 85-89 (2016-2018). However, since the 1990s trends have shown that the 0-24 age group has seen the greatest increase in cancer incidence rates.

Although incidence rates are strongly related to age for all combined cancers, the increased rates start from ages 40-44 and rise most steeply from around age 55-59. Between 2016-2018, on average each year around 36% of new cases were among people aged 75 and over. The highest rates are in the 85 to 89 age group for females and males.

Rates of incidence are significantly higher among women than men in the younger groups and significantly lower in women compared to males in the older age groups. The widest gap between the genders is at age 40-44 (Cancer Research UK, 2021a).

When it comes to individual cancers, the average age of incidence is varied:

Colon cancer – 60+

Breast cancer – 50+

Lung cancer – 75+

Prostate cancer – 66+

Why does cancer risk increase with age?

There are a few reasons for this however there are two biggest ones that contribute the most. The first is that over time, the cells produced in our body can become damaged. This can happen by chance when cells are dividing as they would normally. However, there are other factors that may change it such as smoking, chemicals or UV rays from the sun. Under normal circumstances your body can fix this.

The second reason why older are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer is because their immune system is less effective at spotting threats, infections and damaged cells which eventually may lead to cancer (Cancer Research UK, 2021b).

Additionally, low awareness of the increased risk of cancer as we age and lack of ensuring that treatment decisions for older people are based on need rather than age also contribute to higher rates of incidence among older people. Our ability to improve early diagnosis would be key for maximising chances of effective treatment and long-term survival. According to Age UK (2021), people over the age of 75 are the only age group in which mortality rates have increased since the 1970s, with most of these cases only being diagnosed when patients are taken to hospital in emergency situations. This lends to the idea that many people forego regular health assessments and are asymptomatic until it is too late.

Staying healthy as we age

As mentioned earlier, age is not the only reason our cells may mutate. Overconsumption of alcohol, smoking, too much exposure to the sun and many other lifestyle factors and environmental exposures may lead to mutations. That’s why it is critical to be aware of all risk factors associated with cancer and try to reduce their impacts on your body.

Exercise more: According to Baker (2021), about 75% of people aged 45-74 in England are considered overweight or obese. Around 20million people were failing to meet the Government recommendations for physical activity, with women being less likely to be active than men (Gov.uk, 2020).

Eat a balanced diet: Based on the recommended daily amounts, most of us still consume too much sugar and salt. This increases risk of various disease including cancer. According to Diabetes, (2022), currently more than 4.9million people have diabetes in the UK.

Quit smoking: In the UK, those aged 25–34 make up the highest proportion of smokers – 19% (ONS, 2020). Quitting smoking is difficult, but there are many resources available that make the transition easier.

Limit alcohol consumption: Even at younger ages alcohol has strong effects on you beyond decreasing your inhibitions and helping you have a good time. Consuming too much alcohol can raises blood pressure, increases risk of mouth or oesophagus cancer and may lead to pancreatitis. People also tend to forget that it is extra unneeded calories that may increase your weight over time.

A study from 2014 had the following conclusion:

“Patients and providers both need to recognize that for most adults, age is coincidentally associated with preventable chronic conditions, avoidable exposures, and modifiable health habits that are causally associated with cancer. In addition to changing individual behaviors to reduce cancer risk, multilevel system and environmental interventions that address multiple diseases and risk factors could prevent or delay the occurrence of cancer and other age-related diseases.” (White et. al., 2014).

Ageing better with Echelon Health

Echelon Health understand that making beneficial lifestyle changes is important. However, in order to know what changes you need to make you should to have a sound understanding of what your health is at the moment.

To this end, Echelon Health provide various comprehensive assessment packages that cover specific areas of concern, such as our Core Cancer package that looks at the most common cancers. Or if you are more interested in a full-body assessment then our Platinum Assessment is the one for you.

The list below identifies all the scans and tests involved in the Platinum Assessment. Combining the best imaging technology through our CT, MRI and ultrasound scans and years of experience among our medical experts, Echelon Health are able to detect up to 92% and 95% of preventable causes of death among men and women respectively, in one comprehensive assessment. Below you can see the scans and tests that we perform, and the diseases that we can detect.

Medical Questionnaire & Pre-Assessment Every Client completes a detailed Medical Questionnaire that ensures a full medical history is taken. This is reviewed by one of our doctors who may need to speak with you to establish more detailed information relating to your health and risk factors. It allows us to have a full image of your health and establish the best course of action to look at your health.
Blood Tests Our blood tests check over 40 parameters to look at various cancer markers, hormone levels, cholesterol, vitamins and more to determine if any imbalances could indicate a certain illness or disease.
ECG An Electrocardiogram (or ECG) is an important test that records the rhythm, rate, and electrical activity of your heart. It is completely painless and takes only a few minutes but helps find any irregularities that could indicate a heart issue.
CT Aorta Our heart scan examines the beginning of the aorta for any evidence of dilation which could be the early signs of an aneurysm
CT Heart CT Heart Scan (Calcium Score) examines your overall heart arteries for any calcium deposition – ‘furring up,’ which could be the earliest sign of atheromatous disease.
CT Coronary Angiogram This determines the exact location and severity of any atheroma – the ‘furring up’ of the blood vessels. The CTCA is unique in its ability to visualise so-called ‘soft’ plaque which is the most vulnerable to rupturing and causing a heart attack).
CT Chest With this scan, we are looking for evidence of tiny nodules which could be the early signs of lung cancer. We can detect cancers as small as 1-2mm.
CT Pelvis Here, we are looking for any signs of abnormalities or tumours in your kidneys, bladder and lymph glands and reproductive organs.
CT Abdomen Here, we are looking for any signs of abnormalities or tumours in your liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, adrenal glands and more.
CT Virtual Colonoscopy This scan is looking for colonic polyps and early indications of cancer.
CT Bone Density A CT Bone Density scan is an extremely accurate method of measuring the density of your bones and diagnosing osteoporosis and the risk of bone fracture in your hips and spine in the future.
EOS CT Upright Skeleton This ultra-low-dose 3D CT scan of the entire skeleton in the standing position enables us to determine whether you have any postural issues or predisposition to spinal disc problems and lower back pain.
MRI Brain This detailed scan of your brain looks for any indications of tumours or significant abnormalities, including of the sinuses and inner ears.
MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram This scan looks directly at the arteries in your brain to assess whether there has been any narrowing or malformations of them. Any indication of these issues would indicate an increased risk of stroke or a brain haemorrhage.
MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram This determines whether there is any narrowing of the neck arteries that supply blood to the brain.
MRI Prostate (Men) This, combined with the PSA blood test, is the most accurate means of screening for prostate cancer.
Ultrasound Thyroid An ultrasound of the thyroid is looking for evidence of nodules or tumours.
Ultrasound Testes/ Ovaries This scan is designed to look for any evidence of testicular/ovarian tumours or cysts that could indicate cancer risk.
Digital Mammogram (Women) A digital mammogram is the most accurate means of visualising breast lumps or early signs of cancer.
Full Body Mole Screen Skin cancer screening looks at moles that could be atypical which may be an indication of skin cancer. Single moles which may be of concern may be checked and recommended for removal. Skin cancer can be one of the most aggressive cancers if left undetected.
Final Consultation Your scans/assessments are reported on by some of the leading specialist radiologists in their respective fields and then reviewed with you by a senior Echelon Health Doctor who will explain your results to you, and if needed provide a referral for treatment should anything untoward be found.

 

To find out more information about how a health assessment can help you make informed decisions about your health and your lifestyle, don’t hesitate to contact us on info@echelon.health.

 

 

 

Sources:

Oswald, K. (2018). Nearly 40% of cancer cases in UK attributable to preventable causes. Available at: https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/nearly-40-of-cancer-cases-in-uk-attributable-to-preventable-causes (access 23/08/22)

Cancer Research UK (2021a). Cancer incidence by age. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/age#heading-Zero (accessed 23/08/22)

Cancer Research UK (2021b). Age and cancer. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/age-and-cancer#:~:text=Cancer%20can%20develop%20at%20any,can%20sometimes%20lead%20to%20cancer. (accessed 23/08/22)

Age UK (2021). Cancer in later life. Available at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/our-impact/campaigning/cancer-in-later-life/ (accessed 24/08/2022)

White, M. C., Holman, D. M., Boehm, J. E., Peipins, L. A., Grossman, M., & Henley, S. J. (2014). Age and cancer risk: a potentially modifiable relationship. American journal of preventive medicine46(3), S7-S15.

Gov.uk (2020). Physical activity. Available at: https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/diet-and-exercise/physical-activity/latest (04/01/2022)

Baker, C. (2021). Obesity statistics. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn03336/ (04/01/2022)

Diabetes (2022). Diabetes statistics. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics (04/01/2022)

ONS (2020). Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2019#adult-smoking-habits-in-the-uk-data (04/01/2022)