There is scientific evidence that causes of cancer and other common ailments like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and many digestive tract diseases are related to lifestyle.
Exposure to carcinogens, poor eating habits, stress, and lack of sleep are commonly listed causes. By far, the largest reliably known percentage is the 30% of current U.S. cancer deaths due to tobacco. However, some nutritional factors (s) may eventually be of comparable importance. (Doll et al., 1981)
Smoking, alcohol use, and low fruit and vegetable intake were the leading risk factors for death from cancer worldwide and in low-and-middle-income countries. In high-income countries, smoking, alcohol use, being overweight, and obesity are the most important causes of cancer. Sexual transmission of the human papillomavirus is a leading risk factor for cervical cancer in women in low-and-middle-income countries. Reducing exposure to key behavioral and environmental risk factors would prevent a substantial proportion of deaths from cancer. (Danaei, G et al., 2005)
According to Ayurveda causes of cancer are differently described. Cancer cells are always present in the body; the imbalance, overexpression, or accumulation of a dosha leads to their expression and manifestation in the form of a disease.
Charaka and Sushruta Samhita have described two types of cancer—the benign form they call granthi, and the malignant form is arbuda. Both these cancer types can be inflammatory or noninflammatory. Cancers caused by an imbalance of all three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are generally malignant and have a high prospect of morbidity.
Ayurveda does recognize various types of malignancies, such as sarcomas, leukemia, oral cancer, and malignant cancers. There are references to various cancers in different organs—liver, stomach, thyroid, etc.
There are two concepts fundamental to TCM. These are qi, which can be described as life energy, and Qi, which is integral to all living and nonliving things and is in a state of constant flux and change.
A healthy body results from a balance of the body and mind. There is considerable focus on thoughts, emotions, and the psychological state of an individual. TCM, too is an observation-based medicine system. An individual’s external manifestations determine the state of the body’s main organs. Symptoms are observed and used to determine the state of the body.
Five key organs are defined in TCM. These are the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. These are called the Zang organs. Organs are dependent on each other. The imbalance between organs causes illness. There is another class of organs in TCM. These are the Fu organs. These are the gall bladder, stomach, bladder, and large and small intestines.
Three regions of the body are defined in TCM. These are referred to as triple energizers. The first is the upper region above the diaphragm. The middle region lies between the diaphragm and the belly button. The lower region is the part below the belly button. This part plays an important role in water metabolism.
Everything in the universe comprises two opposing and interdependent forces—yin and yang. Yin is the dark, cold, passive, or female aspect. Yang is the active, bright, hot, and male aspect. The balance between the two helps maintain the health of the body. Disharmony leads to illness and pain. TCM seeks to restore the balance between yin and yang.
In TCM and the larger ancient Chinese philosophy, everything comprises five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Harmony between these is critical for maintaining health.
In our body, organs and tissues are interconnected and interdependent. Physicians diagnose disharmony by examining the external symptoms of the body, such as pulse, tongue, the color of skin, etc. According to TCM, an internal problem reflects on external body parts. By examining the pulse, the TCM physician can detect which organ is affected by the ailment.
The TCM physician looks at a patient’s routine, external influences, and personal details. The impact of the weather, mental state, age, gender, career, food, and other habits are used to evaluate the patient’s condition.
TCM refers to six evils related to climate. These are wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, fire, or heat. The body responds physiologically to seasonal changes. Skin pores open during summer and remain less open during winter. The pulse is taut in spring, surging in summer, floating in autumn, and deep in winter. These define blood circulation and the state of qi in the body.
Social influences and mental state are considered important under TCM. Psychological damage to organs and body systems concerns TCM physicians. Cases of insomnia and stomach ailments are often associated with the psychological state of an individual.
Given the interrelationships between organs and the external symptoms, the TCM clinician focuses not on the affected organs but on those parts of the body that have a malevolent influence on the body. The malevolent influence manifests itself in the form of an ailment. The emphasis is on holistic treatment in which the mind, body, and spirit are all targeted.
Richard Doll, Richard Peto, The Causes of Cancer: Quantitative Estimates of Avoidable Risks of Cancer in the United States Today, JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 66, Issue 6, June 1981, Pages 1192–1308, Causes of Cancer: Quantitative Estimates of Avoidable Risks of Cancer in the United States Today
Danaei, G., Vander Hoorn, S., Lopez, A. D., Murray, C. J., Ezzati, M., & Comparative Risk Assessment collaborating group (Cancers. (2005). Causes of cancer in the world: comparative risk assessment of nine behavioral and environmental risk factors. The Lancet, 366(9499), 1784-1793.