Can You Prevent Cancer?
According to World Health Organization (WHO) cancer is the second-most common cause of death globally and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer and approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
In addition, around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5-leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. It is important to note that this killer disease can affect any one in the world: the rich and poor, male and female, young and old.
What is known about cancer prevention is still evolving. However, it is well-accepted that your chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices you make.
To understand how to prevent cancer, one needs to begin by knowing what cancer is.
What is Cancer?
Many people may think that cancer is a 21st century phenomenon. However, cancer is known to have been around since 3,000 BC. The word cancer is credited to the Greek physician, Hippocrates (460-370 BC), who is considered the “Father of Medicine” and who used the terms carcinos and carcinoma to describe non-ulcer forming and ulcer-forming tumours. In later years a Roman physician, Celsus (28-50 BC), later translated the Greek term into cancer, the Latin word for crab.
The term cancer encompasses more than 200 diseases all characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of cells. The malignant cells ignore the body’s signal to stop and multiply to form tumours in organs and tissues or, in the case of blood cancers, crowd out normal cells in the blood stream and bone marrow.
Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.
When cancer develops, however, this orderly process breaks down. As cells become more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumours. Many cancers form solid tumours, which are masses of tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukaemia, generally do not form solid lamps.
Cancerous tumours are malignant, which means they can spread into, or invade nearby tissues. In addition, as these tumours grow, some cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumours far from the original tumour.
Symptoms of Gall Bladder and Bile Duct Cancer
Doctors often cannot explain why one person develops cancer and another does not. But research shows that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop cancer. Although some of these risk factors can be avoided, others such as growing older, cannot. Limiting your exposure to avoidable risk factors may lower your risk of developing certain cancers.
The risk factors (some of which are avoidable), include:
- Growing older
- Taking tobacco products including smoking and chewing tobacco
- Sunlight, sunlamps, and tanning booths all give off ultraviolet (UV) radiation
- Radiation/ionizing radiation: including radon, x-rays, gamma rays, and other forms of high-energy radiation
- Obesity: poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight
- Hormones: Estrogens, a group of female sex hormones, are known human carcinogens. Although these hormones have essential physiological roles in both females and males, they have also been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers
- Infectious agents: Including viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause cancer or increase the risk that cancer will form
- Immunosuppressive drugs make the immune system less able to detect and destroy cancer cells or fight off infections that cause cancer
- Chronic inflammation: The inflammatory process may begin even if there is no injury, and not end when it should
- Cancer-causing substances in the environment: These are chemicals in air, water and soil such as aflatoxins, cadmium, coal tar and wood dust, to mention just a few.
How to prevent cancer
With an understanding of some of the risk factors that can increase the chances of getting cancer, one can bear in mind some of the ways we can prevent cancer, including:
- Going for regular check-ups as we get older
- Avoiding taking tobacco substances
- Using sunscreen cream when exposing our bodies to the sun and avoiding the tanning of our bodies
- Avoiding alcohol and alcoholic substances
- Not unnecessarily exposing our body to radiation (for example – too many X-rays
- Eating healthily, balancing our diet and doing regular exercise
- Avoiding drugs that may lead to hormone imbalance
- Avoiding the over-use of immunosuppressive drugs, especially after body transplants
- Avoiding environmental pollution