Did you know that cancer is the 3rd leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases in Kenya? According to The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) GLOBOCAN in 2018 there was an estimated 47,887 new cases of cancer annually with a mortality of 32,987 in the country.
Globally, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths. That is nearly one in six deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As the world commemorates World Cancer Day on 4th February, we are reminded of the dire effects of this disease. Cancer has become a global pandemic and this day has been set aside to inform and encourage people about its prevention, early detection and treatment.
This year’s theme is“Close the care gap” which recognizes the powerof working together. This theme also notes that every one of us can make a difference, large or small and that together we can make real progress in reducing the global impact of cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer occurs when a group of normal cells in the body lead to uncontrolled and abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumor. When this is untreated, it spreads to other surrounding normal tissues thus affecting normal body function.
Below are the most common types of cancers globally according to the World Health Organization
- Breast (2.26 million cases)
- Lung (2.21 million cases)
- Colon and rectum (1.93 million cases)
- Prostate (1.41 million cases)
- Skin (non-melanoma) (1.20 million cases)
- Stomach (1.09 million cases)
What causes cancer?
Did you know that one-third of deaths from cancer are due to alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and high body mass index? As cancer continues to ravage the global population, the million-dollar question has been the main cause of cancer and here we look at the most common risk factor
The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. Harmful use of alcohol is accountable for 7.1% and 2.2% of the global burden of disease for males and females respectively. According to the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC), alcohol consumption raises the risk of getting 6 types of cancer namely
- Mouth and throat.
- Voice box (larynx).
- Colon and rectum.
- Breast (in women)
Smoking tobacco products causes almost nine of every 10 cases of lung cancer. However, tobacco use is also linked to other types of cancer such as breast, liver cervix, esophagus and stomach
CDC attributes 70 chemicals from tobacco smoke that can cause cancer which you breathe in the smoke these chemicals get into your body thus damaging the DNA.
Having a higher body mass index doesn’t mean that you will get cancer but maintaining a healthy diet with less body index makes one at a lesser risk of getting cancer. An obese person can have long-lasting inflammation and higher than normal levels of insulin thus at higher risk of getting cancer.
Lack of physical activity
According to the National Cancer Institute, exercise has been known to reduce the risk of cancer in that, it lowers the sex hormones such as estrogen that have been associated with cancer development. It also prevents high blood of insulin which has been linked to cancer development. In addition, physical exercise improves the immune system and also helps in reducing obesity which is a risk factor.
Low fruit and vegetable intake
Cancer Council attributes the intake of fruits and vegetables to reduced cases of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which, in combination, help to reduce the risk of certain cancers. In addition, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that help to maintain a healthy body.
In conclusion, Cancer can significantly be prevented by reducing exposure to the risk factors. In addition, vaccination against the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) goes a long way in protecting against liver cancer and cervical cancer respectively. With cancer, nobody prepares you the moment it strikes as sooner or later the impact becomes evident and detrimental. Cancer leaves a devastating effect on the livelihoods of people from psychological, financial and physical burdens thus any diagnosis of cancer within a family comes with traumatic experiences.0