Cancers can be managed with treatment. Even better, many can be prevented.
People who believe cancer is caused by genetic mutations and other factors beyond our control have got it wrong. Mutations in certain genes do have a strong causative role, such as harmful mutations in BCRA1 and BCRA2 , with the first raising a women’s risk of breast, fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers, and BCRA2 raising ovarian cancer risk. In Men BCRA2 mutations, and two a lesser extent, BCRA1 mutations, raise risk of breast and prostate cancers.
Such clear causative linkages to cancer are rare. Behaviours and environmental causes well within your control have a larger role to play and you can take protective steps against certain cancers, which together are the top five cause of all deaths in India. Around 30 lakh people have cancer in India, with 11 lakh new cases and 5 lakh deaths each year. The most common cause of cancers deaths in India are lung, breast, liver and cervical and lung cancers.
Here is how you can protect yourself from the most common cancer triggers in India.
Stop tobacco use
No amount of tobacco use is safe. All forms of tobacco -- smoking, chewing, snuff and secondhand smoke –areca nut (supari) and betel quid (pan, pan masala), have together made oral cancer the most common cancer in India. Between them, tobacco in its many chewing, smoking and sniffing forms account for 30% of all cancers in India.
More men are smoking in India than ever before, with the number rising by more than a third from 79 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015, report researchers in BMJ Global Health. Smoking rates haven’t gone up in women in India, the study found, which partly explains why lung cancer is the eighth cause of cancer deaths in India, while it is the most fatal cancer for Indian men and men and women around the world. This is remarkable given that millions of women in rural India still cook over wood- and-charcoal fires in porly-ventilated homes, which also increases cancer risk.
Get vaccinated against certain viruses
Most people don’t link virus infections with cancer, but viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV) have been proven to cause cervical cancer, while hepatitis B and C infections can lead to liver cancer. There are affordable and effective vaccines that protect against HPV and Hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine against Hepatitis C.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in India, but has dropped to the sixth highest cause globally because several countries have started vaccinating girls against HPV. Getting vaccinated against both these viruses – Hepatitis B vaccine is a part of routine immunization in India, and HPV vaacines have been introduced in some states – can protect against cervical cancer in women and liver cancers in both genders.
We breathe in about 10, 000 litres of air each day, depending on how active we are. With each breath, we draw in life-saving oxygen along with carcinogenic contaminants that damage the body and particularly the lungs over time even when present in trace amounts.
Air contaminants mostly come from the combustion of fuels for heating, cooking, power generation, industrial processes and vehicular traffic. Air is unsafe in most parts of India. in rural areas, it’s burning of dung and wood in open fires wrecks lungs, while urban hubs battle pollutants from power-generation plants and combustion engines, particularly for motor vehicles. Indoors carcinogens include tobacco smoking, building materials, and furnishings, as well as the naturally occurring carcinogen radon.
Many individual components of air pollution -- such as particulate matter (dust), soot, (black carbon and titanium dioxide), diesel engine exhaust, secondhand smoke, solvents, metals (titanium dioxide) and asphalt (bitumen used for road surfacing) -- are also make it to the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs (IARC), which lists 481 agents and environmental factors that are carcinogenic to humans.
Protect yourself by not lighting open fires, keep cooking areas ventilated, and wear protective masks in dusty and heavily polluted roads and industrial areas.
Everyone who drinks doesn’t develop cancer, but studies show that cancers are more common in people who drink than those who don’t. Drinking alcohol raises the risk of seven types of cancers – liver, mouth, upper throat (pharyngeal), food pipe (oesophageal), voice box (laryngeal), breast and bowel cancers.
in the body, alcohol (ethanol) gets converted into acetaldehyde, which is a toxin that damages DNA by preventing cells from repairing it and is classified as a possible carcinogen by IARC.
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