At a time when Cancer still
remains a feared and dreaded disease, our headline - "Cancer can be prevented too" may sound a bit incredible, and
clichéd, more so as cancer still remains theleading cause of death worldwide. For this reason, it has been a
constant endeavor by the WHO and the International Union against Cancer to
address ways to reduce the burden of cancer, and the (4th of February) each year
is dedicated as World Cancer Day.
The theme for 2010 looks at a key
facet - Prevention of Cancer.
The WHO makes no qualms about the
fact that in the absence of timely
, cancer can claim the lives of 84 million people worldwide
between 2005 and 2015, with the low and middle-income countries bearing the
brunt as compared to the industrialized ones. If that's not all, the burden of
cancer is estimated to double by 2020 and nearly triple by 2030. According to
the forecasted figures for 2030, there are likely to be 20-26 million fresh
cancer diagnoses and 13-17 million cancer related deaths. China, Russia, and
India need to watch out and tackle the growing burden of cancer, attributed
mainly to increase in use of tobacco, fatty diets, adoption of western habits,
and demographic changes.
It is possible to reduce the
risks of cancer and move closer to prevention of the disease.
Cancer can be prevented with the following steps:-
• Banish Tobacco - Smoking or consuming tobacco in any form
• Adopt a healthy diet and regular exercise
• Reduce or completely avoid intake of alcohol
• Seek adequate protection against cancer-causing infections
Banish Tobacco and Cut Cancer Risk
The use of tobacco is linked with
a number of different cancers including lung cancer. Tobacco also increases the
risk of other types of cancers such as cancer of the pancreas, mouth, throat,
cervix, and bladder. Tobacco also triggers other chronic respiratory diseases
as well as cardiac disease.
Smoking accounts for 90% of lung
cancer cases. A smoker carries a fourteen fold risk of dying due to cancer and
a double risk of dying due to a heart attack.
Almost 4000 potentially toxic
chemicals found in tobacco are inhaled into the system due to smoking. The
chemicals found in tobacco lower the body's immunity to fight infections.
Further, tobacco gradually begins to harm the vital organs in the body,
especially the heart and the lungs.
Giving up on this habit is loaded with benefits. The healing mechanism
in the body kick starts into action within 20 minutes following the last puff.
Smokers, who quit before they turn 50, carry a reduced risk of premature death
as compared to those who continue.
Role of Diet and Exercise in Cancer Prevention
The role of diet and exercise in
cancer prevention could not have been summed up better other than the expert
Dennis Savaiano, dean of Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences and
chairman of the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance, or FANSA.
He said, "Approximately one-third
of cancer cases are related to smoking, one-third to poor diet and lack of
exercise, and one-third to genetic or other factors. Most people are already
aware of the detrimental effects of smoking, but the rate of obesity and poor
diet is cause for alarm."
Savaiano has left pointers on how
we could change our diet to reduce the risk of cancer.
• Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and
• Avoid food that is heavy on fat and/or sugar
• Limit the intake of alcohol or better completely abstain from it
• Ensure regular physical activity
"Many foods that are widely
advertised tend to be high in calories and relatively low in nutrients, while
few advertisements appear for less processed foods such as vegetables and
fruits or whole grains and beans," he added.
It is about time
we tweak our advertisements to publicize right kinds of food and give the
correct message about the relationship between diet and cancer.
Alcohol and Cancer Risk
The risk of cancer increases with
alcohol consumption and the risk increases commensurately with increase in
intake of alcohol. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its "Report on Carcinogens
" has for
the first time listed alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen.
Scientists and researchers cannot
overlook the strong link between even reasonable alcohol drinking and an
enhanced risk of certain cancers, more so cancer of the liver and the breast.
There is also evidence of cancers of the esophagus, pharynx, and mouth, and
colorectal cancers with intake of alcohol.
Cancer Causing Infections
"Viruses are etiologically
linked to approximately 20% of all malignancies worldwide." (Human
retroviruses: their role in cancer. WA Blattner. Proc Assoc Am Physicians 1999
Even though a great deal of
medical research has gone in to understand causes of cancer, yet the part
played by chronic infections in causing cancer needs more research.
The WHO has said that close to 23
percent of malignancies in developing countries have their triggers in infectious
agents; in developed countries, 8 percent of all malignancies are caused by chronic infections, ostensibly some of the most common cancers have been
caused by an infective agent. Vaccinations are the only way to prevent some of
the cancers caused by infectious agents.
For instance, Helicobacter pylori
are behind the
onset of gastric cancer, the second leading reason for cancer death worldwide.
Liver cancer, triggered by Hepatitis
, is the sixth important cause of cancer death worldwide.
is a disease that is caused due to inflammation of liver
cells, leading to damage of the liver. The main cause behind Hepatitis is the
'Hepatitis Virus', although triggers in other forms exist such as -bacterial
infections, intake of drugs, and excessive alcohol.
Viral hepatitis, as the name
suggests is triggered by a virus that causes inflammation of liver cells. Many
different viruses - Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E are behind the attack of viral
hepatitis. Hepatitis B, C, and D
cause chronic hepatitis that can even last a lifetime. The dangerous part about
these viruses is that in some cases it could lead to life threatening
conditions such as liver cancer, liver failure and cirrhosis.
Hepatitis A is considered the
mildest of the three forms and is usually without any long-term side effects.
The vulnerability to Hepatitis A increases with frequent travel to
international locations, sex with an infected person and exposure to regions
where vaccinations are uncommon. Vaccination for children between 12 and 23
months is recommended as a good prevention measure.
Hepatitis B caused by the HBV
virus is the most dangerous chronic liver infection in the world. Nearly 10% of
Hepatitis B victims battle long-term liver infection. In many cases, Hepatitis
B causes irreparable liver damage, leading to death. The Hepatitis B vaccine
affords effective protection against the attack of the virus.
Infection caused by certain types
is a significant cause of
cervical cancer in women. Studies have also established a strong risk of
oropharyngeal cancer from HPV infection which also plays a role in cancers of
the anus, vulva, vagina, and penis.
Two vaccines to prevent HPV
infections: Gardasil® and Cervarix®
have been approved by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both
vaccines have been found to tackle effectively the persistent infections with
HPV types 16 and 18, which are behind the cause of 70 percent of cervical
There is concrete proof now that action on smoking,
diet and infections can effectively stave off one third of cancers, and another
third can be cured. With cancer raising its ugly head doggedly, we now have a
choice of doing our best to prevent it. Undoubtedly, a cancer free life rests
in your hands.