How did I get cancer?

I wrote this article for my chondrosarcoma support group and I've decided to post it here as well, even though this is my leukemia journal. Some of the same things apply.

I've often been told, "Elizabeth, I just don't understand how I got cancer! I've lived a clean life, no drugs, no smoking, healthy diet all my life. I've stay away from sugar and eat all natural. I'm not lazy. I exercise, and work out regularly. I keep my stress to a minimum and I have always been a positive thinker. There is no cancer in my family! How did I get this?"

I just have to say there are a lot of mistaken ideas about what causes cancer. Finding out why you got it probably won't be sufficient evidence to give you peace of mind. I have spent the majority of my life seeking the answers. I'm fairly sure a combination of things that might have contributed to my getting chondrosarcoma or leukemia, but they are the same things that others in my life experience every and they did NOT get chondrosarcoma. There's some information that we still don't know. 

When you ask your oncologist what causes my cancer, the usual answer is, "We don't know for sure." I've done a lot of research and have found some possible answers, some articles that suggest, or hypothesize the cause(s). 

What I have learned, is that for some cancers there are obvious answers. The following is NOT to suggest what is the cause for chondrosarcoma or leukemia. But, to answer some questions as to why there is so much controversy regarding what causes any cancers. For those who are interested, it may help to give you an idea of why it is not easy to pinpoint exactly. From all the recent research I've been reading, I doubt it is just one thing only, but a combination. (I'll write about that another time.) 

In the meantime, for the curious here's a few things to consider:

Do certain types of cancer have a hereditary component? Yes. But not chondrosarcoma. Do not confuse what I have said about people with certain pre-existing genetically inherited conditions having a bigger chance of getting chondrosarcoma than others, though. It's not the same thing.

What about exposure to dangerous chemicals or other known toxic materials proven to be carcinogens? I recall my doctor "suggesting" that my exposure to Love Canal as a child, "might" have had something to do with it. But, search as I might, I've found little evidence to prove it. Though, there's a lot of evidence for other kinds of cancer including leukemia. That being said, it doesn't mean it can't be proven in the future. 

In relationship to diet, here's a scientific PDF article you can print out and read at your leisure discussing carcinogens in certain foods. Are you ready to give up your favorites in the hopes it would prevent recurrence? Not sure if that's a reasonable hypothesis. So many members have come and gone in the group over the years who have changed their diets considerably and not be able to prevent recurrence or metastasis. Sorry, I don't wish to be negative. By the same token, there are some people who have changed their diet and are still here. Still, I am of the opinion that having a more carefully chosen intake of nutrition definitely improves one's all around health and sense of well-being. But if eating only certain foods was the cure for cancer, it would be obvious. There wouldn't be those who have said to me that first statement above. 

One thing that we don't think of as a possible cause for cancer is a virus. In fact the first virus known to cause a cancer was the Rous Sarcoma Virus. We all know that HIV is caused by a virus. Don't we? Cats get leukemia from a virus. Interestingly, only one form of human leukemia has been proven to be caused by a virus.

Some bacterial infections can cause certain cancers. Believe me... I get paranoid just thinking about this aspect. We all are exposed to one of the most common ones and carry it around in our guts most of the time! This is the abstract, but you can get the full PDF free. See the link on the page. 

So, here is one I highly suspect in relationship to chondrosarcoma. The reason is that it is positively known to destroy cartilage cells. Inflammation is a word we think little about. But, it is known to be a powerful ally as well as enemy. Inflammation helps our body to heal after surgery. However, it is one of the causes of post surgical and chronic pain. This disturbs me. If we don't want cancer to return and we are in a state of inflammation, how can we stop it? And would doing so actually prevent a cancer recurrence? (And would this idea apply at all?)

Do you really know what is the definition of "inflammation"?

How does inflammation contribute to cancer?

An easy to read and well written article:

One of the most common erroneous beliefs is that we get (all) cancers because of faulty immune systems. I'm not saying immunity has nothing to do with it. Just that it is not the only cause of cancers, as you have already seen. Just the same, I think it is important to understand how immunity and cancer is related. Usually it is the chemo treatment that decimates the immune system.

This is not the end of this. I will add more later. We still haven't looked at gene mutations.

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