As we continue through National Cancer Prevention Month, in this issue of the Cancer Pro blog, we are going to take a look at how various changes in our lifestyle may help prevent cancer. However, before we do, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the burden cancer has on the world.
The Burden of Cancer Worldwide
Cancer continues to be among the leading causes of death globally. Estimates from GLOBOCAN 2020 produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggest worldwide that there were 19.3 million new cases and 10.0 million cancer deaths last year. In Malaysia, some 21,700 people die on average from cancer every year.
Further research suggests that by 2040, the number of new worldwide cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 29.5 million, and the number of cancer-related deaths will increase to 16.4 million.
Currently, cancer rates are highest in countries with the longest life expectancy, education level, and standard of living. However, for some cancer types, such as cervical cancer, the reverse is true, and the incidence rate is highest in countries where the population ranks low on these measures.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent cancer, certain risk factors increase the likelihood; but, you can take action to help lower these risks through living a healthy lifestyle and following our top tips listed below.
Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active
Being overweight and obese is linked to many cancers, including those of the endometrium (a type of cancer that begins in the lining of the womb), liver, kidney, pancreas, colon, breast (in postmenopausal women), and more.
Doing a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week can make a big difference in your overall health and well-being as physical activity is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer. There is also some evidence that links physical activity to help to reduce the risk of other cancers.
Besides physical exercise, consider introducing a plant-based diet to include eating lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, limiting red meat, and cutting out processed meats.
Top Tip: Add exercise to your daily routine to help reduce stress, increase energy, boost your immune system, control your weight, and reduce the risk of cancer.
Stay away from Tobacco and Tobacco-related products.
Research continues to identify that Tobacco has been linked to many types of cancer, including lung, colorectal, breast, throat, cervical, bladder, mouth, and oesophagal cancers (the long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach).
About 90% of all lung cancers are related to smoking, and non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk for lung cancer and other diseases. Research has indicated that some 10-15% of lung cancer-related deaths are people who never smoked.
More research needs to be undertaken regarding cancer and e-cigarettes, but the Prevent Cancer Foundation stands firm in discouraging the use of all tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
Top Tip: Remember, it’s best never to start using Tobacco, but it’s never too late to quit if you use Tobacco or any related products.
Limit how much alcohol you drink
Global studies have shown that drinking alcohol is linked to several cancers, including breast, colorectal, oesophagal, oral, and liver cancers. It can also increase the risk of pancreas and stomach cancer.
In-depth research suggests that alcohol affects the risk of cancer in various ways. One being, it acts as an irritant that can severely damage body tissues. When cells try to repair themselves, alcohol leads to DNA changes that can point to cancer. Alcohol can also affect the absorption of folate and other nutrients, estrogen levels, and body weight, all of which can contribute to cancer growth.
The more alcohol a person drinks over time, the higher their risk of developing alcohol-associated cancer. Even drinking small amounts may increase your risk.
Top Tip: If you drink, limit your drinking to one drink a day if you are a woman, and one or two a day if you are a man. The rule is simple; the more you drink, the greater the risk of cancer.
Always practice safe sex.
Many types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Using a condom the right way every time can help protect you, but it is not 100% guaranteed.
Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils), and at least four other types of cancer.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses can be spread from person to person through sex or blood. They can also cause a long-term liver infection that can increase your chance of developing liver cancer.
Top Tip: Always practice safe sex, control the number of partners, and always avoid risky behaviour.
Stay out of the sun and off the sunbeds.
While nothing cheers us up like having the warm sun on our face, or a quick session on the sunbed, too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and artificial sources such as tanning beds or heat lamps can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Researchers have found that most skin cancers directly result from exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000, melanoma skin cancers occur each year worldwide. Today, one in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer.
Observational studies have also shown that basal and squamous cell cancers (the most common types of skin cancer) can be associated with spending more time in the sun and living in countries with a high amount of sun. Melanoma, a less common but more severe form of skin cancer, is also associated with exposure to the sun.
Top Tip: Stay out of the sun between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm, always use a high-quality sunscreen, keep any exposed areas covered with a hat or loose-fitting clothes and utilise any shade when you’re outdoors plus avoid tanning beds or sun lamps.
Know your families health history.
Typically, most people diagnosed with cancer do not have a family history, which is one reason why screening is so important—but a personal or family history of cancer or certain other diseases may increase your risk.
Always discuss your family history with your health care provider and discuss cancer screenings. Some tests can help detect cancer early when successful treatment is more likely, and some can also see precancerous conditions before they become cancer.
Top tip: While screening can help save lives, screening guidelines may not be ‘one size fits all’ solution for everyone.
There is no foolproof way to prevent cancer, but you can help reduce the risk factors by following our top tips for living and maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate, resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding all aspects of cancer prevention, please visit www.cancer-pro.com.