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World Cancer Day: Top 10 cancer killers, how to reduce risk

by Maryam Olaniyi
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Cancer is a big deal when it comes to our health. It claims millions of lives every year all around the world. Although we’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and treating different types of cancer, preventing it is still super important.

On World Cancer Day, we need to talk about the top 10 cancers that cause the most deaths and explore strategies to mitigate the risk of their occurrence.

Lung Cancer

When you have lung cancer, it means something’s gone wrong with the cells lining your airways. They start growing out of control and form tumours. If these tumours are left untreated, they spread all over the lungs and damage lung function. It is responsible for the highest number of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Lung cancer is predominantly caused by tobacco smoking. To reduce the risk, avoid tobacco in all its forms, including smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. If you’re around materials like asbestos, radon, or certain chemicals used in jobs like smelting or manufacturing, it can up your chances of getting lung cancer. Wearing the right gear at work and having accurate information about any substance that you’ll be handling are ways to protect yourself

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer happens when cells in your colon or rectum start growing out of control. It is sometimes referred to as just colon cancer. The colon is the big part of your intestine, and the rectum is the part that connects the colon to your butthole, called the anus. This cancer affects the colon and rectum and is closely linked to lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity, and obesity. You can prevent a lot of colon cancers, up to 75 per cent, by getting regular check-ups and living healthy. Screening is the best way to protect yourself. It can find cancer early when it’s easier to treat, and it might even stop cancer from happening in the first place. Also, adopt a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting red and processed meat consumption. Engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight.

Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, begins in the cells that line the stomach. It’s one of the most common cancers globally. The biggest risk factor for stomach cancer is being infected with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). It’s not easy to avoid getting this infection, especially in lower-income countries. However, treating it can lower the risk of getting stomach cancer. To prevent stomach cancer, treat the H. pylori infection, quit smoking, and eat less salt and processed foods. Instead, try to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and keep weight in check.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer, as with other types of cancer, is a life-threatening disease that occurs when a malignant tumour forms in or on the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver cancer risk factors include chronic hepatitis B and C infections, drinking too much alcohol, being obese, and exposure to aflatoxins. Aflatoxin is a cancer-causing substance made by fungi called Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated against hepatitis B, practicing safe sex to avoid hepatitis C, cutting back on alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, and making sure your food is safe to eat to reduce aflatoxin exposure.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer happens when cells in the breast start growing abnormally and divide faster than they should. This can lead to a lump or mass forming in the breast, and it can spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Lifestyle choices really matter when it comes to breast cancer risk. Women can lower their risk by staying at a healthy weight, being active, not drinking too much alcohol, breastfeeding if they can, and getting checked for breast cancer regularly.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the esophagus. Tobacco and alcohol use, obesity, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are major risk factors for esophageal cancer. Avoid tobacco and alcohol, manage GERD symptoms effectively, maintain a healthy weight, and consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables while limiting processed foods and sugary beverages.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a pretty common cancer among men. It begins in the prostate gland, which is part of the reproductive system. It’s actually the second most common cancer in men worldwide, affecting about one in seven guys. The good news is, prostate cancer can often be cured, especially when caught and treated early. Age, family history, and race are things you can’t change that affect your risk of prostate cancer. But there are things you can do to lower your risk, like staying at a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and talking to your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening.

Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Cervical cancer starts in a woman’s cervix, which is the part that connects the uterus to the vagina. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer (99%) are caused by getting infected with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a very common virus spread through sexual contact. The best way to lower your risk of cervical cancer is to get vaccinated against HPV, practice safe sex, get regular Pap tests, and quit smoking. These steps can make a big difference in reducing your chances of getting cervical cancer.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer starts in the urothelial cells, which line the bladder, urethra, ureters, and renal pelvis. While there aren’t many lifestyle factors linked to bladder cancer, they can really affect your risk. Not smoking is a big one; it can greatly lower your chances of getting bladder cancer. Also, staying away from water with lots of arsenic in it can help. High arsenic levels are often found in well water, so it’s important to test your drinking water if you use well water at home. For people who work with certain chemicals, like aromatic amines found in rubber and aluminium production, it’s crucial to wear the right protective gear at work and know what chemicals you’re dealing with.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a serious illness that affects the pancreas, which is a gland in your belly that helps with digestion. It’s often tough to find in the early stages. We’re still not totally sure what exactly causes pancreatic cancer, but smoking, being overweight, and having family members with the disease can up your risk. To lower your chances of getting pancreatic cancer, it’s a good idea to stay away from tobacco, keep a healthy weight, and eat a balanced diet.

In conclusion, while not all cancer cases are preventable, living a healthy lifestyle and minimising exposure to carcinogens can significantly reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer.

On World Cancer Day and every day, let us focus on prevention, early detection, and access to quality healthcare to combat this formidable foe.

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