Fitness Magazine

Bad Luck and Cancer

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
 by Nina

Bad Luck and Cancer

Girls with Good Luck Charms by Raphael Kirchner

It is a human trait to search for explanations for catastrophic events and rule out mere “chance” or “bad luck.” — Martin A. Nowak and Bartlomiej Waclaw
It’s always good to have a reality check, right? So today’s post is to let you know that recent scientific studies about the causes of cancer actually identify “bad luck” as one of the major causes. In an article in Science Magazine Genes, environment, and “bad luck the authors put it bluntly:
“An understanding of cancer risk that did not take bad luck into account would be as inappropriate as one that did not take environmental or hereditary factors into account.” 

The article goes on to explain because of the way our cells replicate, mutations can occur when the cells divide. (These mutations can cause the cell to grow and divide more rapidly, to fail to stop dividing, to make mistakes repairing DNA errors, or cause types of problematic behavior, all of which can contribute to causing cancer.) So cancer is simply a by-product of these “normal” mutations. The normal mutations that happen when cells divide are simply “bad luck” and the resulting cancer is, too. The article discusses a study by C. Tomasetti and B. Vogelstein that appeared in Science in 2015, which concluded “65% of the differences in the risk of certain cancers is linked to stem cell divisions in the various cancerous tissues examined.” This shows that the “bad luck” mutations are definitely partly responsible for causing the cancer. The article concludes by saying that many cancers may be preventable if they are partly due to environmental factors (examples) because for cancers caused by multiple mutations, preventing a mutation caused by the environment may be enough to prevent the cancer. According to Cancer and the Environment by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the following environmental factors are known to cause or are likely to cause cancer in humans: 
  • Tobacco 
  • Diet/Weight/Physical Inactivity 
  • Alcoholic drinks 
  • Ultraviolet radiation 
  • Viruses and bacteria 
  • Ionizing radiation 
  • Pesticides 
  • Medical drugs 
  • Solvents 
  • Fibers, fine particles, and dust 
  • Dioxins 
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) 
  • Metals 
  • Diesel exhaust particles 
  • Toxins from fungi 
  • Vinyl chloride 
  • Benzidine 
Some of these environment influences may be fairly easy to avoid but others may require serious changes to the local or even global environment. And, of course, there is nothing you can do about hereditary factors (at least not yet) or just the bad luck of having multiple mutations during cell division. The takeaway for me is we must be careful never to blame someone or yourself for getting cancer (yes, I’ve heard yoga practitioners take that attitude). This is not only unkind but, as you can now see, it is wrong—scientifically. Furthermore, because cancer arises from an accumulation of a series of mutations (one mutation is almost never sufficient), the bad luck of actually getting cancer is linked to age. That’s simply because there is more time to accumulate 3-4 bad mutations that can result in a cancerous cell. (The more rare childhood or developmental cancers are typically driven more by the bad luck of inheriting bad genes along with environmental causes or random events.) So as you age, your chances of having this kind of bad luck do increase (see Cancer, Aging, and Yoga). So how do we use yoga to handle this bad luck?
Practicing truthfulness (satya), one of the yamas that are the first branch of yoga, means not only speaking the truth but also practicing truthfulness in how you see the world. That means accepting reality as it is rather than living in a state of illusion (see Truthfulness (Satya) as a First Step). So even though it is in our nature to wish for “explanations for catastrophic events,” our first step needs to be accepting the fact there is such a thing as bad luck and that sometimes we just don’t have control over our own fate.
From there, we can use yoga to help those (or ourselves) who have cancer to reduce physical pain and emotional suffering. And for those who are undergoing surgery or treatments, we can use yoga to help fostering healing.
Finally, our karma yoga (selfless service) activities can include protecting the environment! Working for the health of our environment will help reduce the risks of cancer and many other health problems as well.
For further information about yoga and cancer, here are some posts you might wish to read:
Cancer, Aging, and Yoga
Yoga for Cancer: Interview with a Nurse and Cancer SurvivorYoga for Cancer: Interview with Cheryl Fenner BrownYoga's Healing Powers Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook ° Join this site with Google Friend Connect

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