At some point, it seemed as if we were being plagued with a curse. A curse which is no respecter of persons, socioeconomic class or even age. Cancer has caused mankind so much that it can no longer be ignored. In fact, there is little or no possibility that the average person has never heard of this killer disease because many families have members who have had one form of cancer or the other.
Cancer is a class of diseases characterized by out of control cell growth. Simply put, some cells grow faster than they should, overshadow others, compete for nutrients, occupy space and disrupt normal function. These mostly appear as a solid tumor at the site but not all cancers are solid, for example blood cancer (leukemia). Some of the commonest cancer sites include breast, colon, rectum, lung, cervix and stomach.
Unfortunately, there is no known cause of this disease. But as is obvious, just as there has been major lifestyle and environmental changes in the world today, we have also experienced a surge in the incidence of cancer over the last few years. As such there are speculations that some of these lifestyle and environmental modifications may actually be the source of our problems. They have been termed ‘risk factors’.
The risk factors of cancer can be grouped into three categories;
- Lifestyle factors
- Environmental Exposures-Sun and UV(ultraviolet) ray exposure.
– Radiation exposure
– Other carcinogens
– tobacco use
– diet and physical activity
Genes are pieces of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) found in the nucleus of cells in the body. They contain instructions on how to make the proteins that the body needs to work, when to destroy damaged cells and how to keep cells in balance. An abnormal change in gene is called a mutation. Many inherited cancers are caused by a mutation of either one or more of three different genes. They are;
- Tumor suppressor genes: these are genes that slow down cell division, repair DNA mistakes or tell cells when to die. When they don’t work properly, cells can go out of control which is what leads to cancer.
- Proto-oncogenes: involved in normal growth and division. However, when these genes are altered, the cells become more active than normal allowing cells to grow and survive when they should not.
- DNA repair genes: They work by fixing damaged DNA . Cells with mutations in these genes tend to develop more mutations in other genes. Together these may cause the cells to become cancerous.
- Tobacco use: Tobacco has been said to contain a very high number of carcinogens (cancer causing agents). These include; nicotine, cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, acetylene, ammonia. The use of tobacco has been linked to the causes of almost all types of cancers.
- Diet and physical activity: Of all the factors that contribute to cancer development, this is the most modifiable. The power of exercise and healthy diets cannot be over emphasized. Many cancers have been linked to obesity and reduced levels of physical activity. One of the ways to get an idea if you are at a healthy weight is to check your body mass index (BMI). A score based on the relationship between weight and height. Use this BMI Calculator to find out your BMI now!
Radiation is the emission of energy from any source. This energy has the potential to cause gene mutation. Ultraviolet radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation and the main source is the sun. Other sources include tanning beds and welding torches. Most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to the UV rays in sunlight. Both basal cell cancers and squamous cell tend to be found on sun exposed parts of their body. When the sun is strong, stay in a shade. Cover up with clothing and use sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 and at least 4 stars.
COMMON CANCER MYTHS BUSTED!
- Using certain antiperspirants, shampoos, deodorants or personal toiletries increase breast cancer risk: No research has found any evidence to support this claim. An epidemiological study that directly compared women with and without breast cancer, found no link between their health and their toiletries.
- Cell phones cause brain cancer: As of now, there is no credible evidence that electromagnetic fields emitted from cell phones or other electronics can cause cancer. A recent study found that cell phone users had no higher risk of any cancers even if they had used the phones for over a decade.
- Cancer is always a painful disease so if it is not painful, it is not cancer: Most cancers initially start off painless but become painful with progression. Therefore it is necessary to have a regular hospital check.
Cancer is not something one should wish for anybody not even your enemy. Let us join hands together for a common cause, to fight this curse!