According to Dr. Shawn Zimberg, medical director of radiation oncology at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, despite considerable advances in identifying and treating the disease, the causes of cancer remain very much a mystery. Some claim development is based on family history, while other studies prove to the contrary.
“Cancer is an abnormal growth whereby normal tissue is either exposed to, or has inherited, one or more genetics, environmental or social factors that can contribute to cells going awry," said Zimberg. "Over time, we age and these exposures and risks can go up.”
Since most cancers are not hereditary, Zimberg cautions against genetic testing unless the results are evaluated by a qualified genetics counselor.
“You can’t do much about your genetics, but it’s good to know your family history and discuss it with your doctor, as earlier testing based on any genetic predisposition along with age-based screenings (such as mammography, PSA or colonoscopy) may be advisable,” he said. “Cancer causes are multifactorial, and there are many prudent steps you can take to limit exposures such as using sunblock, avoiding smoking or secondhand smoke, excess alcohol use and improving healthy habits. In terms of diet, nutrition is still being investigated but for example, a high consumption of red or processed meats has been shown increase the risk of colon cancer, and studies suggest limiting consumption to 18 ounces per week.”
Good Samaritan Hospital and St. Anthony Community Hospital are members of the WMCHealth Network.