February is National Cancer Prevention Month. But how many of us know this?
There is plenty of support for Breast Cancer Awareness in October, but little is known about the other cancers and less about their prevention methods and efficacy. So, in the spirit of this month, let us explore together 3 of the attributed preventable causes for cancer.
According to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), over half of diagnosed cancer cases worldwide are a result of preventable causes. This means that we can eliminate over 50% of the risk factors that enable the development of cancerous cells in our bodies. Those risk factors on which we have total control, can alter our cellular genetic or epigenetic information and cause them to directly develop cancerous cells or increase the risk of developing them later in our lives. In short, we have a choice to say NO to cancer.
The leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths is tobacco consumption. Both active and passive smoking have been linked to 17 different cancer types in addition to lung cancer. This is an awful lot of cancers you can avoid!
Whilst the UAE like many nations has implemented plenty of major public policies to reduce tobacco consumption; the most recent being the 100% VAT tax on cigarettes, little has been done to reduce the consumption of waterpipes like shisha or argeela. Research has proven that shisha can be up to 17 times more harmful than cigarettes. The flavoured tobacco inhaled by shisha smokers exposes them not only to carcinogenic chemicals and addictive nicotine but to the poisonous carbon monoxide produced from the burnt charcoal.
In short, shisha smokers are twice as likely to develop lung cancer in addition to other cancers. If you are a shisha smoker, get your lungs checked regularly because until today there are no early warning signs for lung cancer and if you exhibit any of the usual lung cancer-related symptoms, you are likely to be in the later stages of the disease.
SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE / OBESITY / POOR NUTRITION
The importance of a healthy lifestyle has been hammered into us from the early age. We know that eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly is beneficial for both our physical and mental wellbeing. But a lot of us do not realise that it also can prevent the formation of deadly cancerous cells in our bodies.
If you are overweight or obese, you are at risk of developing 14 of the deadliest cancers including the fatal pancreatic cancer. In 2012, obesity was responsible for 481,000 new cases worldwide and the numbers are rising. The exact science of how increased fat leads to increased risk of cancer is still understudy but research has found that fat cells produce adipokine hormones which may stimulate or inhibit cell growth. With increased fat cells, higher levels of adipokine hormones are released into the blood stream which leads to cell proliferation and ultimately cancer cell formation.
Further, overweight or obese people often have low levels of chronic inflammation. Overtime, chronic inflammation damages the DNA which leads to cancer. Moreover, obese people tend to have higher insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the blood which promote the development of colon, kidney, prostate and endometrial cancers.
In short, you can prevent obesity-related cancers by:
Maintaining a healthy body weight
Eating a balanced nutritious diet
Minimising your intake of red meat and processed meat (like hot dogs, salami and cold-cuts)
Engaging in physical activity for at least 30mins everyday
Limiting your alcohol consumption if at all.
UV RADIATION EXPOSURE
Another preventable cancer cause; mainly skin cancer, which we all can avoid is the exposure to UV radiation from the sun and indoor-tanning units. We are constantly advised to wear sunblock, but how many actually do? Research found that less than 15% of men and only 30% of women bother to include sunblock application in their morning routine. Are you also one of them?
Sunblock with SPF 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation can safeguard you against the 3 most deadly skin cancer diseases: Basal-Cell Carcinoma, Squamos-Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. Another effective way to avoid skin cancer is to stop using indoor-tanning beds. There are people who believe that tanning beds are safer than tanning on the beach, but this is simply not true. So, practice sun-safe habits; avoid direct sun exposure between midday to 4:00 pm in Dubai, wear sunblock regularly and do not use indoor-tanning beds.
Although these prevention methods appear to be awfully basic, they can save you plenty of pain, agony and cost if implemented. In fact, they can even save you your life!