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The Big C: Is Cancer Preventable?

Can you prevent cancer?

Understanding the Complexity of Cancer

Cancer is not just one disease. It is an umbrella term used to describe over 100 distinct types of diseases, each with their own set of characteristics. Even within a single type, such as breast cancer, there are multiple sub-types, each presenting unique challenges and requiring tailored treatment approaches.


Cancer may be complex in how it manifests, but at its origin, cancer is a metabolic disease, as pioneered by Dr. Thomas Seyfried and others. Regardless of the type, what all cancers have in common at the origin is damaged mitochondria, the energy engine inside each of your cells, core to your metabolic health. When the mitochondria are damaged, cells go rogue, and eventually tip into a cancerous state.

Understanding this background is crucial in exploring whether cancer is preventable. By recognising that each type of cancer is a distinct disease, even at the individual diagnosis level, yet still all rooted in metabolic dysfunction, we can better appreciate the intricacies involved in prevention.

In this blog, I’ll share the latest alarming stats on cancer in younger people, below 50. I will dive into the key factors that may be causing cancer, and what the path to prevention could look like.


The Good News: Cancer Survival Rates Are Rising


Cancer survival in the UK has doubled in the last 50 years, with 50% of diagnosed patients surviving for a decade or more post-diagnosis, according to Cancer Research UK.

This monumental shift is driven mainly by:


  • Better screening programmes which support earlier detection and improve outcomes

  • Medical advances in the form of targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and precision medicine

  • Integrative medicine which combines medical treatment protocols with complementary therapies to activate our innate healing mechanisms


However, the rate of improvement has slowed down in the past decade, signaling a need to double down on new therapies and treatment approaches.

The Not So Good News: More People Are Being Diagnosed with Cancer, Especially Younger People

cancer by age group

Since the early 1990s, incidence rates for all cancers combined have increased for all the age groups in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, rates in 0-24s have increased by 19%, in 25-49s have increased by 22%, in 50-74s have increased by 13% and in 75+s have increased by 9%. 


Strikingly, the largest increase is in people aged 25-49 where rates have increased by 22% since the early 1990s, as seen in the above chart. While the order of magnitude is still small compared to other age groups, the rate of increase is alarming.


younger people with cancer

Why Are People Getting Cancer Younger?


A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to environmental, and other modifiable risk factors, like nutrition and lifestyle habits.


Our cells age the older we get, making them more likely that they tip into a diseased state. This is exactly the driving factor behind the high rates of cancer in people older than 75.


Besides age, genetics play a role, but it is smaller than you might think. Only about 5-10% of all cancers are thought to be caused by hereditary factors, meaning through harmful genetic changes that are inherited from a parent, according to the National Cancer Institute.


What has changed significantly in last few decades comes down to daily food and lifestyle choices and environmental exposures. Radical changes to our food choices, lifestyle choices, and exposure to toxins are directly impacting health.

Think about it, the modern lives we lead today have only been around since the mid-1900s, at best. What specifically has changed since then:

  1. Ultra-processed foods: Now, nearly 60 percent of the daily calories consumed in the US and UK are from ultra-processed foods.

  2. Sugar consumption: Daily sugar consumption has more than doubled in the US and UK compared to the early 1900; most of it is hidden in processed foods and soft drinks.

  3. Sedentary lifestyles: More office-based, computer-based jobs means our daily physical activity is greatly diminished.

  4. Pollution of our air, water, and soil systems: Industrial use of pesticides in agriculture, chemical toxins in packaged foods and household products, air and water pollution, etc.

  5. Chronic stress: People are hyper-connected to their work and others with the advent of the Internet and social media, bringing on an inability to switch off, and a decline in true personal connection.

As depressing as this might sound, I personally find it very empowering, because all these factors are within our scope of control, to an extent.

Let us stop ignoring all these factors when it comes to disease prevalence. They are staring at us right in the face, and still choose to blame it on "bad luck" or "bad genetics".


cancer risk factors

What are the Modifiable Risk Factors for Cancer?


Around 4 in 10 cancers in the UK can be prevented, according to Cancer Research. I think that is a conservative estimate. The most easily modifiable factors driving cancer rates are lifestyle driven. They include:


  1. Smoking: 33% of preventable cases

  2. Overweight and obesity: 14% of preventable cases

  3. Poor diet & insufficient physical activity: including consumption of processed foods, especially meats, and insufficient fiber intake: 14% of preventable cases

  4. Excessive alcohol use: 8% of preventable cases

  5. Excessive UV radiation: 8% of preventable cases

  6. History of infections: 8% of preventable cases  

  7. Exposure to environmental factors like industrial toxicants, radiation, and pollution account for the remainder of preventable factors, at 15%

This is all "stuff" we inherently know but find it hard to shift away from without the right mindset and support.



Cancer is not entirely preventable, but a big proportion of the risk factors are linked to diet and lifestyle. While cancer is scary, we have some agency over modifying our risk, especially for early onset cancers, below the age of 50.


By proactively making changes to our daily choices, we can radically reduce our risk of cancer, and most chronic diseases for that matter.


Simple steps like stopping smoking, cutting out sugar, reducing alcohol intake, eating plant-rich whole foods, staying active, and avoiding excessive sun exposure go a long way to protect us from cancer and a host of chronic diseases.


It’s the "boring stuff" that we all know we should do. So, why aren’t we doing it? Not until we get a wake up call of some sort.


Don’t wait for a nasty wake-up call to make changes. Get started on your journey towards better health in early mid-life.


I help my coaching clients fix their nutrition and lifestyle habits, heal their metabolism, and feel more reassured about their health using strategies that don't feel restrictive or overwhelming.

Take a look at The Health Audit, which is a data-driven, one-stop health discussion, that creates transparency provides the right framework to minimise chronic disease risk.


certified health coach in London nada soubra

More About Nada


I am a Certified Resilience & Metabolic Health Coach.

I empower busy parents to take more control of their health, get stronger, and prevent chronic disease using realistic approaches that create consistency, without overwhelm.


My approach is rooted in tried-and-tested nutrition and lifestyle methodology rooted in metabolic health.

I want to make early mid-life a chapter in which parents can feel reassured about their health and thrive in all aspects of their life.


Previously, a Partner in strategy consulting, I pivoted into health coaching and founded The Healthy Chain, after a personal experience with ovarian cancer, which prompted me to make health my top priority.


I am a mum of three and I know how hard it can be to prioritise health when you are juggling a career and family. I focus on realistic tweaks and swaps that slot easily into busy schedules.

You can now schedule a free "Discovery Call" with me to explore how you can start on your journey towards better health. Use this link to book.

Get in touch – I love hearing from you!

Thank you,

Nada Soubra

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