When you have a chronic disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), you devote a lot of energy to keeping your symptoms in check…
You work to get your meds right. You eat healthy. You keep stress levels low — all to prevent further damage to your central nervous system.
In fact, keeping your nervous system as healthy as possible becomes your main mission in life. But something serious can happen while you’re running defense against MS…
You can get blindsided by another disease.
It hardly seems fair, but it’s not uncommon for chronic diseases to come in clusters. And MS is no different.
In fact, if you have MS, you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, other autoimmune diseases and, unfortunately, cancer.
The last one’s hard to swallow. How is anyone so *lucky* to have MS and cancer in the same lifetime?
But here’s the good news. Your overall cancer risk isn’t that much higher than normal. It’s your risk for three specific types of cancer that you need to be aware of…
The connection between MS and cancer
A new study presented at the 5th European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Congress found that people with MS have a much higher risk of three different types of cancer: respiratory cancer, central nervous system cancer, and urinary cancer.
In the study, researchers examined 65 years’ worth of health records from nearly 7,000 people with MS. They also looked at data from over 8,000 of their siblings and more than 37,000 other people without MS. Here’s what they discovered…
People with MS were 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than people without MS, including their siblings. That’s significant, but not necessarily jaw-dropping. However, here’s where things get a little scarier for people with MS…
They also have a 66 percent higher risk of respiratory cancer, a 52 percent higher risk of central nervous system cancer and a 51 percent higher risk of urinary cancer.
How to curb your cancer risk
I know this sounds like bad news. But I don’t want you to stress out. There are a few factors to consider…
For one, there’s a possibility certain types of cancer (like central nervous system cancer) are just detected more often in people with MS because they get frequent MRIs.
There’s also the possibility that outdated MS therapies contributed to the increased cancer risk since the study data covered a 65-year-span and MS treatments have advanced a ton during that period.
When it comes to the respiratory cancer risk specifically, smoking may have something to do with the higher risk. People with MS are more likely to smoke.
My point is… this study is hardly a cancer sentence. It is, however, a reminder that having one disease doesn’t protect you from getting others.
So, keep up the good work with your MS, but remember to take some anti-cancer action too. Keeping your cancer risk low is simple, although not always easy… especially if you have another disease like MS. But you can make a big difference in your risk by:
- Exercising regularly. Do whatever frequency and intensity level you can manage. Walking, swimming and yoga are great options for people with MS.
- Eating healthy. Whether you choose a Mediterranean diet, an autoimmune protocol diet or something else, make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh, whole foods… mostly vegetables!
- Stopping smoking. I was surprised to learn in my research that people with MS are more likely to smoke. If you’re still holding on to this old-school, unhealthy habit, there’s no better time to quit.
- Not drinking too much. I don’t know how alcohol consumption affects MS severity (I’m guessing it’s not good), but I do know that drinking too much alcohol drives your cancer risk up significantly. So, keep your cocktail consumption down to one to two drinks per day, max.
- MS patients at a greater risk of cancer, new study suggests — MedicalXpress
- How Common Is It To Have MS With Other Medical Conditions? First Results from the MS “Comorbidities” Project — National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- MS May Increase Cancer Risk — Medscape
- Why People with MS Appear to Have a Greater Risk for Cancer — Healthline
- 6 Steps to Help Lower Your Cancer Risk — American Cancer Society
- The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Your Body — Healthline