Prevention offers the most cost effective and long term approach for cancer control among masses.
Below are some of the major risk factors for various types of cancers and preventive measures for the same.
Tobacco consumption in any form is the biggest avoidable and modifiable risk factor for cancer. Tobacco causes cancers of the mouth, lung, oesophagus, larynx, throat, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder and cervix. Not having at all or quitting (if already consuming) at once is the best way to stay away from the risk of getting cancer.
Sometimes infectious agents are also responsible for causing certain cancers. Viral hepatitis B & C can cause liver cancer, HPV (human papilloma virus) can cause cervical cancer and bacterium Helicobacter Pylori may increase the risk of developing cancer of stomach.
Preventive measures for such infections can be taken before hand by getting vaccinations done for these specific microorganisms.
It is a known fact that ionizing radiation is carcinogenic. These radiations can induce leukaemia (blood cancer) and other solid tumours.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays especially from sun is carcinogenic, causing skin cancer like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma. Sometimes ionizing radiations are also used in certain diagnostic and therapeutic tools but they are used well within prescribed safe limits.
It is best to avoid extreme sun exposure, use sunscreen and wear protective clothing while going out in sun to prevent skin cancers.
Unnecessary exposure to radiation through diagnostic tests should be avoided, particularly in children.
Sedentary lifestyle & obesity
Several studies have shown strong links between being overweight and many types of cancers. Caners of oesophagus, thyroid, breast, kidney, pancreas and several others are known to have links with the two.
Regular exercise, optimum physical activity, healthy body weight and a balanced diet will considerably reduce the cancer risk.
Alcohol usage & other dietary factors
Alcohol is a potent risk factor for many cancers such as cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colorectum, liver and breast. Risk of these cancers increases with the binge drinking and excessive intake of alcohol. When heavy drinking gets combined with smoking, the probability of getting cancer increases manifold. Excessive consumption of red meat and preserved meat is also seen to be associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Diet high in fruits and vegetables (high fibre diet) is strongly recommended. Alcohol, if consumed, should be had within limits.
There are several agents, mixtures and exposure conditions in some working environments which can be carcinogenic. Such carcinogens usually cause cancer of the lung, bladder, larynx, skin and leukaemia. For example mesothelioma (cancer of the outer lining of the lung) is mostly caused by asbestos.
Following and observing proper safety measures is strictly recommended for workers where such agents are used.
Cancer is undeniably a lethal disease but by practicing simple preventive measures and making small lifestyle modifications, it can be prevented and kept at bay. Regular health checkups, early detection and not ignoring the symptoms are the key to fight cancer and manage it better.
- In men, 5 common cancer sites are lung, prostate, colorectum, stomach and liver
- In women, 5 common cancer sites are breast, colorectum, lung, cervix and stomach
- Tobacco usage is the most common & important risk factor for cancer
- Approximately 14 million new cases come up each year