February 4th is World Cancer Day, a day designated to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Currently in Nigeria, Cancer is a leading cause of death in the country, of which Breast cancer, cervical and prostrate account for a majority of the cancer incidences in the country. According to the World Health Organization, 1/3 of common cancers are PREVENTABLE through maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active.
When it comes to the preventable types of cancer, Tobacco use accounts for a majority of these types of cancer. Tobacco use has been shown to increase one’s chance of developing 15 different types of cancer, including oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel, and ovarian cancers, as well as some types of leukemia (cancers of the blood). Not only are direct tobacco use dangerous to the body, secondhand smoke, categorized by people who are around tobacco use also increases one’s cancer risk, as well as people who use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco). Studies show these individuals are at risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. People who use any type of tobacco product are strongly urged to quit. Quitting smoking has been shown to increase one’s life expectancy.
Another lifestyle risk factor for cancer is Alcohol use. Increased Alcohol use has been shown to increase the development of cancers including those of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bowel, and breast, and may also increase the risk of liver and bowel cancers. Doctors advise people who drink to do so in moderate amounts and to reduce the use of tobacco when doing so.
One preventative method of reducing one’s cancer risk is to increase physical activity. Lack of exercise and prolonged hours of sitting has been linked with increased incidences of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight and making physical activity part of your everyday life can help reduce your risk of several cancers, which include bladder, breast, colon, endometrial cancer, esophagus, kidney, and stomach cancer. Individuals are advised to exercise at a moderate pace for 30 minutes daily.
Another preventative method includes reducing one’s exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun and other equipment. When staying under the sun, be sure to cover skin, wear sunscreen and hats to protect yourself. It is also important to be up to date with your vaccination records. Chronic infections caused by viruses has be shown to cause approximately 16% of all cancers globally. Some common forms of cancers such as liver, cervical, and stomach cancers are associated with infections with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori virus (H, pylori), respectively. One can be protected against these cancers by getting vaccines against HBV and HPV.