Cancer is the second-highest cause of death worldwide, claiming nearly 1,300 lives every day in India. It occurs due to abnormal growth of cells that destroy normal body tissues. Experts opine that the main cause behind the spike in cases of cancer is our lifestyle and food habits. Dr. Pramod K Julka, renowned oncologist and former Dean and professor of Oncology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, says: “Modern lifestyle is responsible for causing cancer. The growing trend of a sedentary lifestyle leads to the deadly disease.”

From packaged food to adulterated fresh produce, it creates an imbalance in the human body which then leads to cancer. “Switching to junk food, especially among the youngsters as part of pseudo Westernization, is the leading cause of cancer,” adds Dr Julka. A diet which is high in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein can help prevent cancer.

For Akash K Sajith, a Bengaluru-based entrepreneur, life has changed a lot since his parents were diagnosed with cancer. The consulting doctors told him that adulterated and chemical fertilizers have been the root causes of cancer for many people like his parents. This made Akash initiate his business venture Living Food Company that follows a ‘farm to fork’ policy to help people adopt a healthier diet. His venture works on sourcing directly from farms and delivering freshly harvested vegetables, baked bread, and organic food items to people at their doorsteps in Bengaluru. He has made a strong online presence with his web portal which sells items like microgreens such as kale, broccoli, ginger, garlic, radish, leafy vegetables, smoked paprika, Ceylon cinnamon, vegan cheese, moringa powder, organic capers, butterhead lettuce, lemongrass, toasted sesame oil, etc., that are high in essential nutrients like vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and folic acid.

Dr Shivaji Chaudhary, assistant professor, department of Environmental Science, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, says: “Agrochemicals such as pesticides can cause a wide range of diseases like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimers.”

A small-town farmer, Ramchandra Patel is invested in growing organic products like bananas, turmeric, sugarcane, purple yam, traditional rice varieties, finger millets, etc., with organic fertilizers in Olpad, a neighbourhood town in Surat, Gujarat. The story of turning to organic farming started with the death of his father. Ramchandra was curious about what may have caused the fatal disease when the family grows food for themselves, and eats healthy most of the time. His visits to hospitals and consultations with doctors helped him identify the culprit – the chemicals and pesticides used for an effective yield. The revelation of what caused cancer has been a wakeup call for Ramchandra. He decided to adopt natural ways of farming and started practicing Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) on a plot of non-agricultural land. Today, he enjoys the status of a visionary and a farmer with scientific temper. Ramchandra is earning Rs 1.5 lakh per acre/annum, putting his overall yearly income at nearly Rs 30 lakhs from his farm land. “What I invest in my farm land is negligible, the microbial activity in the farm’s soil is massive, production output is high and my returns are profitable,” Ramchandra says. A commerce graduate, Ramchandra believes that the benefit of growing up in an agrarian family and understanding the symbiotic relationship between Nature and farming helped him succeed.

“Organic farming integrates the entire animal and plant resources for improving soil fertility and productivity,” says Dr Shivaji Chaudhary.

Dr Indranil Chattopadhyay, assistant professor, Department of Life Sciences, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur, says, “Exposure of agricultural pesticides are involved in the progression of breast, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate cancer. Nitrates and those which are especially used in processed food are responsible for the development of gastric cancer.”

Regular physical activity, healthy and chemical-free foods, avoiding smoking and drugs can help one live a longer, healthier, and comfortable life. Dr Julka suggests: “Healthy foods like adequate quantity of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats which we call the balanced diet can help prevent cancer. Vegetarian foods like green leafy vegetables, lentils, salads, eggs and foods rich in fibre can also help prevent cancer.”

(The author Manash P Goswami is working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Communication, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Thiruvarur. Readers can reach him at [email protected])