We don’t need to wait until the World Cancer Day before we talk about the ways to reduce the risks of developing cancer.
The rate at which people are dying of cancer nowadays is becoming bothersome. Although, our knowledge of cancer is still evolving, we know for sure that some lifestyle factors play a role in the development of this disease.
Here are 9 important lifestyle choices that have been shown to help curb the menace of cancer…
1. HEALTHY DIET
If you have been following this page, you must have read many of my posts on healthy diet. Like I always say, a healthy diet is not only meant for weight loss; it’s essential for your overall health and well-being. Some form of cancers are not common in some areas of the world, simply because of the kind of food they eat. For example, Mediterranean foods are rich in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants that promote good health, compared to Western and East Asian diets, which are generally unhealthy because of high sugar, salt and fat contents.
2. PHYSICAL EXERCISE
This is another buzz word you will find scattered on my page. Staying active reduces your risks of many diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and of course, cancer. Avoid being sedentary. Stand up from your work desk and take short walks around your office. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Take a walk instead of personal or public transport. Create time for active workouts every day, or at least 4 days in the week.
3. REGULAR HEALTH CHECKS.
Cancer is a silent and slow killer. Except for very few types of cancers that grow fast, many of them take months or even years to become noticeable. When they finally start showing signs, the signs may be mistaken for a less serious illness like the flu, or malaria. This is why you need to go for your routine checkup and health screening. People who go for checkups are more likely to be diagnosed earlier than people who wait until they start having symptoms. Early diagnosis allows for early treatment, and early treatment increases the chances of survival. Advanced cancer, which has spread beyond its original site, is much more difficult to treat.
Examples of screening tests that can help detect early cancers are:
•Mammogram or breast ultrasound for breast cancer
•CT scan for lung cancer
•Colonoscopy for colon cancer
•Cervical cytology for Cervical cancer
4. SMOKING CESSATION
Smoking is a primary, high risk factor for so many health conditions, including cancers of the mouth, lung, colon, bladder and cervix. Over 80% of lung cancers have been directly linked to cigarette smoking alone. Cigarettes contain about 65 different substances which can cause cancer. When you stop smoking, your risk of developing cancer and other life-threatening conditions will reduce drastically. ALL forms of smoking are bad – including vapping, e-cigarettes and shisha.
The bad news is that passive smoking is as dangerous as active smoking. If any member of your household is a smoker, encourage them to stop smoking and direct them to services or resources that can help them quit. Avoid staying close to people who smoke heavily, or ask them to excuse you.
5. ALCOHOL CONTROL
Drinking more than 14 units of alcohol is a risk factor for various diseases including cancer of the bowels and liver. Alcohol dependence is a huge social problem that leads to other vices. Alcohol is sternly prohibited in major religions, especially Islam. Drinking and smoking work synergistically in worsening one’s health and wellness. Total avoidance is the best option, and not just reduction.
Some cancers can be prevented by vaccination against the causative agent. For example, chronic hepatitis B infection is responsible for most cases of liver cancer. But hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable. The vaccine is available for free in government health facilities. Three doses are usually given, starting from birth, and then, 4 to 6 weeks apart. If you’re an adult and you missed it in infancy, you may also go and get yours now.
Another good example of vaccine-preventable cancer is cervical cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has been implicated in the cause of this cancer, and taking the vaccine before sexual debut has helped in reducing the incidence of the disease.
7. HEALTHY AND SAFE PRACTICES.
Avoid risky behaviours such as ingestion of unregulated herbal concoctions, sharing of sharp objects, poor hygiene and indiscriminate s.ex. These practices directly or indirectly put you at risk of developing cancer, among other serious health issues. For example, indiscriminate sex increases your risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B or HPV. These infections weaken your defence against the development of cancer. Ingestion of potentially toxic herbs can damage your liver and intestines. Chronic liver disease or intestinal inflammation can later result in cancer…
This writeup won’t be complete unless I talk about breastfeeding and you can imagine why😊. Breast cancer is among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in women. Breastfeeding is a natural and cheap way to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. Over 20,000 deaths can be prevented annually, if women breastfeed their babies for up to 2 years (WHO).
9. SUN SCREENING
Skin cancers are notoriously difficult to identify and treat. Plus they can be very deadly as they sometimes spread fast to the brain. Direct exposure to the sun will affect the structure of the skin, leading to changes that can later result in cancer. Dark skins are less likely to come down with skin cancer because of the protective effect of the dark pigment – melanin. However, you should always avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight irrespective of your skin type. Use a sunscreens and wear protective clothings if you work outdoors between 10am and 2pm