More than 13 million people died due to cancer worldwide in 2020, in fact every sixth death in the world is a cancer death (WHO ).While the C-word is still a dreaded one , the good news is that Cancer prevention is possible and timely diagnosis can save lives.
Today we shall discuss some very effective and easy to follow lifestyle choices that can help in cancer prevention. Before we come to that let us have some background on cancer.
What is Cancer ?
Cancer is a disease where a group of normal cells undergo changes. These changes lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth. These abnormally growing cancer cells do not function as normal cells. They can further go on to invade, infiltrate and grow into surrounding tissues, organs or even blood and spread throughout the body.
What causes Cancer ?
Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells, the mutations cause a change in the way the cells transmit information related to how to propagate. This mutation then causes the cells to multiple in a haphazard manner gradually eroding the host’s defenses an depleting nutrition.
What are the risk factors for Cancer?
Being overweight with a BMI ( Basal metabolic rate ) of more than 30 is linked to increased cancer risk like colorectal cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
In India alone ,on an average 3500 people die every day due to consuming tobacco. Tobacco smoking and tobacco chewing both have been linked with a very high risk of oral cancer, lung cancer and even prostate cancer. You can cut down down your cancer risk greatly by avoiding tobacco.
Consuming alcohol is a major risk factor for cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and breast. The more alcohol you take, the greater the risk !
The risk multiples if you take both alcohol and tobacco.
Exposure to ionizing radiation can increase your Cancer risk.
Natural sources of radiation
UV radiation in Sunlight
Exposure to Radon a radioactive gas that can be found in soil and building materials
Man-made sources of radiation
Medicinal radiation like in X-rays , CT scans and radiotherapy for cancer
5. Family history -A Cancer risk
Some genes undergo mutations and then can run in families causing cancer. Faulty genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase the risk of developing breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancer.
6. Sexual factors
The following factors can increase the cancer risk in a woman :
- Early sexual activity
- Sex with multiple partners or sex with a partner who is polygamous
- Having multiple pregnancies
- Late first pregnancy (after the age of 30 yrs )
- Taking hormone replacement therapy after menopause for more than 5 yrs
- Taking birth control pills for more than 5 years continuously
Certain viral infections like HPV( Human Papilloma Virus) , HIV ( Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and EBV (Epstein -Bar Virus) have been linked to an increased incidence of many cancers. As a result, many countries encourage vaccinations against these infections.
Signs of cancer ?
There are more than 100 types of cancers .It is difficult to pin down the symptoms of cancer because the symptoms depend on the part of the body that is affected by cancer cells.
Some red flag signs that can point to a possible malignancy in the body are :
2.Lump felt under the skin
3.Significant and unplanned changes in weight – loss or gain
4.Skin changes, such as bruising, redness or oozing of the skin or changes in existing moles
5.Changes in bowel or bladder habits – constipation, diarrhea or blood in stool
6.Persistent cough or feeling breathless
8.Persistent indigestion or pain not better by OTC antacids
9.Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
10.Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
12.Bloody or foul vaginal discharge in post menopausal women
13. Blood in urine
Most common types of cancers in India
These 5 Cancers are most common in Indian population :
- Breast cancer – Breast cancer accounts for 14 % of cancer cases in Indian women
- Oral cancer – Oral cancer accounts for 16 % of total cancer cases in Indian men
- Cervical cancer – Cervical cancer is the third largest cause of cancer deaths in India ,One woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes in India
- Gastric cancer – Stomach cancer is the 4th most common cancer in India and 3rd most common cancer in men
- Lung cancer – It is the most common cause of deaths in Indian men
7 Steps to lower your cancer risk and prevent cancer
1. Stop smoking
Reducing smoking and chewing tobacco can slash the cancer risk in both sexes. Quit smoking today to prevent cancer tomorrow.
2. Limit Sun Exposure
Sun exposure can be a cancer risk specially to fair skinned people .Reduce your sun exposure by wearing hats, scarves, sunscreen etc.
3. Exercise daily to prevent cancer
Daily exercise not only maintains a healthy weight but also helps to get rid of harmful toxins in the body through perspiration. However, you should exercise daily for at least 20-30 minutes. Exercise also helps in improving our mental health and happiness. Staying stress free helps in preventing cancer. You can use fitness wearables like Fitbit and track your activity through Apps like Strava and Google Fit.
4. Maintain Healthy Diet and Healthy weight
Maintain a healthy weight according to your age and height
Eat a diet rich in anti-oxidants -Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Select whole grains and lean proteins. Limit your intake of processed meats.
5. Limit intake of alcohol
You should limit your Alcohol intake to 14 units a day. Since different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of alcohol.
Here is a helpful guide to understand how to calculate the units of alcohol.
6. Safe Sex
To prevent cancer avoid sex with multiple partners as well as avoid sex with partners who in turn have multiple partners. Use a condom to limit your exposure to STDs that can increase your cancer risk.
7. Schedule Cancer screening tests and Breast Self Examination
Early cancer diagnosis can save lives. Cancer prevention can be achieved by routine screening tests. Some common tests that should be scheduled yearly after the age of 40 and six- monthly if you have a family history of cancer or have crossed 50 years of age.
Some useful tests for early prevention of most common cancers are :
1. Breast Self Examination
Breast cancer can strike as early as in the early 30s.Luckily, Breast cancer treatment can be highly effective, especially when the disease is intercepted early.
Ladies, make sure to examine your breasts at home thoroughly at least weekly. A simple breast examination can help detect early lumps in breasts. Signs to look out for are lumps in breast , inwardly drawn nipple, nipple discharge, dimpled skin of the breasts.
This video will help you understand the right technique of examination the detect early breast cancer and prevent cancer.
2. PAP smear test for cervical cancer
The Papanicolaou test or the PAP test involves taking a cervical smear and it is done by a trained nurse or pathologist .You should undertake a PAP smear at least once a year to detect and prevent cancer of the cervix. If you notice any bloody vaginal discharge or bleeding after sex, it could be a sign of malignancy and you should immediately schedule a PAP smear.
3. PSA test
Prostate Specific antigen (PSA) is simple blood test that can help to prevent prostate cancer in men specially after the age of 40 years. You can schedule a PSA test in your annual health check up.
The advantage of getting screening tests
- Screening can save lives – particularly in prostate, breast, cervical cancers if caught early.
- Screening can detect the cancer in its pre-malignant stage , when it is not yet fully developed.
- Screening and early detection can cut down the cost and duration of treatment.
- Screening can reduce the extent of surgical intervention needed , you can avoid big surgeries.
These 7 steps are easy to incorporate in your daily life and will not only effectively cut down your chances of getting cancer but also have the potential to prevent cancer in the long run.
I end with a quote from Marcia Smith ,
Cancer is not a death sentence, but rather it is a life sentence, It pushes one to live !
Till next time #Sinplypretty wishes you to stay #HaleHeartyHappy !