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Prevention of Cancer – 11 – Hygiene 2

Prevention of Cancer PART – 11

(All the articles published in past are available at

Question:  In last part, we discussed Hygiene and how it can prevent several cancers. 1. Oral hygiene reduces risk of not only oral cancer, but also cancers of breast lung colon esophagus and others. Also oral hygiene reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, certain autoimmune disorders etc. 2. We discussed the mechanism how poor hygiene can lead to these diseases. 3. Poor hygiene of other body parts also may be linked to various disorders including cancers. 4. HPV is main risk factor for cervix cancer, and some oral cancers. How HPV is acquired. 5. Role of HPV vaccine. 6. HIV infection increases risk of over 20 types of cancers, most importantly cervix, Kaposi, lymphomas.

What about other infections?

Ans: In addition, you must be well aware that Hepatitis B and C are a risk factor for liver cancer –  in fact number one risk factor for liver cancer worldwide. Hepatitis C is also a risk factor for some lymphoma. Epstein Barr Virus i.e. EBV is also a risk factor for certain lymphomas. HHV 8, HTLV and other viruses are also known to cause various cancers. Helicobacter pylori, a very common stomach infection, is also associated with stomach lymphoma. More and more associations are being known over years. Thus, hygiene, as you can understand is a very important part of our lifestyle that can prevent several cancers, and other diseases.

Personal hygiene has been a very important part of our culture in the past, as part of religion linked practices. Unfortunately, we denounced most religious practices in last several decades due to western influence and the teaching that all our culture and religion are inferior. Fortunately, we are learning again about many of these. Some examples of these practices are 1. Must wash hands before meal, and after meal 2. Do not enter kitchen without bath 3. No touching of drinking water source (e.g. Matka) without cleaning hands 4. No sharing of food from dish once you have started eating or sharing of cup, spoon…5. Food was always served by clean hands. Cannot touch serving spoon or vessel with spoiled hands while you are eating. 6. Menstrual hygiene related practices 7. Sexual hygiene related practices and restrictions 8. Pregnancy and delivery related practices 9. Not touching newborn for about one month, except by mother and perhaps one or two other relatives 10. No entry in home with footwear. Must wash feet once you enter home 11. Daily bath at least once. Some would bathe once they return from work. Or at least change clothes. 12. Kitchen, food storage related practices had strict hygiene 13. Cleaning mouth after each meal by gargles, use of finger to clean major food particles from teeth. Additionally, “mukhvas” (such as Variyali i.e. fennel seeds) also is a very powerful way to remove food particles from teeth!!!  Eating a fruit after meal also achieves the same. 14. Cleaning area where we had meal with a wet cloth, even if it looks clean. And having meal only in designated areas which can be cleaned easily. 15. And many others.

I am sure many of you can relate to these. Many grandparents may still be practicing these partly at least.

Some of these are easily understandable and are being advised now by modern medicine as well, such as hand wash before meals. Modern science has realized that very minute food particles that we cannot see with our eyes, attract many insects, rodents etc. Hence the importance of eating only at meal table and cleaning surface after meal. Hepatitis B, C and many others can be spread by sharing food from same dish. Newborn child easily catches any infection, including some that cannot be cleared by hand wash or sanitizers or by mask. Their immunity is extremely weak, and some of these infections can lead to long term diseases. We have already discussed the value of keeping mouth clean.

Que: Very true and intriguing facts. So true about our cultural practices. That reminds me of recent news articles about how eating dinner early can prevent several metabolic disorders and reduce obesity etc. That was our standard practice in fact. But we stopped doing that under western influence. Dinner before sunset was a rule in practically every home during our grandparents’ time. Same way early to bed and early to rise – both practices now proven by modern science to prevent so many diseases, including many cancers.

Ans: Yes, in the same line, eating out was extremely rare. Except marriages or specific functions, there was no concept of cooked food served outside of home. A very important relation to hygiene as we can all agree. In addition to quality of food of course!!! These were all connected to culture, religion and hence people followed these rules more strictly.

This discussion of culture reminds me of another area, controversial at this time, but it is likely someone will soon prove this to be true. Avoiding sex during menstrual cycle, and during pregnancy. It is highly likely that this practice has important benefits for women, and likely fetus in terms of risk of many infections. We are in early stages of learning that a number of infections can pass on to fetus and lead to certain serious disorders in later life, including some even decades later.

It is worth having relook at many of our cultural and religious practices, before it is too late. We certainly need to be pragmatic about them, and also try to find out original logic, as well as correlate with what we know today. Since over thousands of years, I am sure some or more of these practices have changed, or were added later, or distorted. Hence the need for study (not blindly follow), but study with more respect now than ever before!!!

November 16, 2022 Dr Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 9998084001.

Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad.

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