How lifestyle choices play a significant role in developing chronic illness

Cancer surgeon with over 29 years of experience, Dr Kinner Shah sheds light on the easy yet difficult steps we can take to preserve our health and wellbeing

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Somya Mehta

Published: Thu 23 Jun 2022, 4:49 PM

Being one of the earliest recorded diseases to have surfaced amongst human beings, there still remains no real — or miracle — treatment for the Big C that plagues millions of people globally each year. Until recently, when new information broke ground that a small cancer drug trial demonstrated a 100 per cent success rate. For the first time in history of cancer research, a group of 18 people participating took a drug called dostarlimab for six months, which resulted in every single one of their tumors disappearing. Although it is hardly two to three per cent of cancers for which this will be useful, for the first time in the history of medicine, there is hope to derive a possible cure for this deadly disease, believes Dr Kinner Shah, MBBS, MS (General Surgery), MCH (Oncosurgery). “Until now, we’ve never seen all patients responding to a treatment. And even though the group size was small, we’ve also never seen the complete cancer going away. So there’s a lot to be hopeful about,” says Dr Shah, a cancer surgeon with over 29 years of experience.

Dr Kinner Shah
Dr Kinner Shah

Having dealt with over 10,000 cancer patients in his journey, Dr Shah treats a variety of different cancers, including head and neck cancers, breast cancers amongst others. Witnessing the field of cancer treatment evolve drastically over the previous decades, the doctor believes that raising general awareness about the nature of the disease has played a pivotal role in making people more alert about the preventative measures and early detection.

Although much is yet to be accomplished when it comes to raising awareness, says the doctor. “The fundamental thing you have to understand is that there are more than 200 types of cancers. Right now, from research, we only know that tobacco, alcohol and meat are three factors responsible for almost 60-65 per cent of the cancers. And these are all lifestyle choices,” says Dr Shah.

While there’s a gamut of reasons that cause cancer, which may be beyond one’s control, lifestyle choices can be a result of informed decisions with adequate reasoning and awareness around how one can play an active role in preserving their health and wellbeing. “When I tell people that [smoking, substance and meat] are main lifestyle factors that play a role in forming cancer, they immediately turn around and say, ‘What’s the point of living like this?’ All I say is, it’s important to know the consequences of your decisions. If you’re willing to take the risk, then at least educate yourself and don’t disregard the complexities that may arise. Cancer doesn’t happen overnight. It gives you enough time. But what happens is most of the times we disregard the signs and symptoms,” adds Dr Shah.

Adding to the list of factors, the latest concern also seems to be obesity. “Obesity is now an increasing risk factor for cancer. People want to label it as the new cigarette. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are the new equivalents of cigarettes. They are amongst the top three causes of cancer in almost eight types of cancers, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, oesophageal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer,” mentions Dr Shah. “This is where the media plays a role in educating people,” he adds.

Step number one, according to the cancer surgeon, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, includes opting for physically active lifestyle versus a sedentary lifestyle. “If you are physically fit and fine and exercise regularly, it definitely gives some protection,” says Dr Shah, warning people against becoming overweight. “Everybody loves junk food, but it is really harmful. Plus, these foods have preservatives, which are chemicals. These chemicals can affect our genes and our gene code,” he adds.

“Fresh vegetables, fruits, exercise, meditation, physically keeping yourself fit and weight control are the basic requirements to lead a healthy lifestyle. And, of course, avoiding smoking and substance,” Dr Shah signs off .

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