- Written by Dr. Paul Sebastian - Director, RCC
Cancer has emerged as a major public health problem in India. However, when considering other non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, cancer incidence is quite low in ourcountrywhen compared to developed countries. Cancer incidence in India is in the range of 100-130 new cases among one lakh population, accountingfor a million cancer cases annually. The figures in Kerala are reported to be marginally higher (150 per 100,000 population) when compared to the national figures and the estimated new cases in Kerala is around 55,000.
The term ‘cancer’ represents a collection of diseases in which abnormal cells divide in an uncontrollable cancers are preventable, 1/3rd can be cured by early detection combined with effective treatment and for the remaining 1/3rd palliative care enhance the quality of life of the cancer patients. The population based cancer registry operating under the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram reports that tobacco related cancers account for 42% of cancers among men while among women, cancers of the breast and uterine cervix are the two common cancers. When considering the disease ‘ cancer ’ , misconceptions attached to the disease are many. It is in this scenario that the ‘World Cancer Day’ assumes significance to alleviate the fear associated with cancer and to unite humanity to spread the fashion, further resulting in invasion to other tissues through blood and lymph vessels. Based on the pattern of cancer occurring in our society, it is observed that 1/3rd of the message for cancer prevention, early detection and timely management. The theme of the World Cancer Day-2016 is‘We can, I can’.The themelays emphasis on the importance of reducing the
global burden of cancer through a joint effort pointing to the approach ‘Together We Can’. World Cancer Day is a chance to make a pledge and take action to fight against cancer. Promoting healthy life style, encourage early detection,create healthy environment,and improve access to cancer care centres are the measures to be taken for cancer prevention and control. While considering primary prevention of cancer, the focus should be on modifiable risk factors which accounts for a major proportion of cancers. The modifiable risk factors include behavioral risk factors like tobacco, unhealthy diet, alcohol, infectionsand physical inactivity. Tobacco is the major cause of preventable cancers.Avoiding tobacco in any formis the most important step in cancer prevention.Tobacco products and second hand smoke have many chemicals that can induce cancer. There is convincing evidence to prove that tobacco consumption causes cancers of the oral cavity, lung, larynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx, oesophagus and urinary bladder. The association between tobacco consumption and cancers of the stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, uterine cervix and myeloid leukemia are also reported. The leading cancers occurring among men in Kerala are oral and lung cancers. Alcohol consumption may increase the risk of certain head and neck cancers particularly cancers of the throat and larynx. It was reported that moderate to heavy consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, larynx, colorectum, pancreas, breast and prostate. Diet has a major role in cancer.It is recommended to avoid or reduce the consumption of red meat and junk food to reduce cancer risk. Foods rich in fiber and antioxidants are useful for cancer prevention. Consumption of fruits and vegetables has emerged as key factors for cancer prevention. Kerala’s consumption of fruits and vegetables (less than five servings/day) based on the non-communicable disease risk factor survey of 2007-2008 was found to be grossly inadequate for a healthy living. The prevalence of low consumption of fruits and vegetables was reported to be as high as 87% in Kerala. In addition to this, promotion of organic farming for pesticide free vegetables and fruits needs to be encouraged in homes. Along with healthy food, physical activity also hasan important role in the prevention of cancer. There is convincing evidence that increased physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers. Increased physical activity and regularexercise would help to prevent cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking every day. In general 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity is recommended. In addition to the above factors,infections also play a major role in cancer occurrence.Some bacterial and viral infections cause cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) increases the risk of cancer of uterine cervix and Hepatitis B virus increases the risk of liver cancer. The role of Helicobacter pylori in the occurrence of stomach cancer has also been discovered. In general, vaccination against Hepatitis B, regular screening for cervical cancer detection and preparation and storage of food in hygienic conditions are recommended to prevent infections. The common cancers occurring in our society are either preventable or curable if detected early. Cancers diagnosed at an early stage are more likely to be treated successfully. Common cancers which can be detected through community based cancer screening include cancers of the mouth, breast and uterine cervix. To summaries, the key factors for cancer prevention and control are given below:
- Avoid tobacco andalcohol consumption
- Balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day
- Creating awareness about breast cancer among women and to report to a physician immediately if any change in the breast is noticed
- Motivating women above 35 years to undergo cervical cancer screening
- Motivation for oral self examination particularly among tobacco habitués
- Preliminary screening for oral and breast cancers
World Cancer Day is the right opportunity to propagate this message and educate people to fight against this disease. Along with healthy food,exercise and proper immunization, maintain a clean and healthy environment to prevent cancer. In this scenario it is high time that the community intervenes, taking leadership activities to ensure the well-being of mankind.