Cancer is a general term.
It applies to a series of malignant diseases that may affect different parts of the body.
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These diseases are characterised by a rapid and uncontrolled formation of abnormal cells.
With time, these cells may mass form a growth or tumour or proliferate throughout the body, initiating abnormal growth at other sites.
The common forms of cancer are; skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer among others.
The ultimate cause is often exposure to carcinogenic chemicals (including those found in nature) and/or to radiation (including natural cosmic and earthly radiation), coupled with a failure of the immune system to eliminate the cancer cells at an early stage in their multiplication.
This happens often, regardless of genetic propensity or viruses that may influence the risk of the cancer.
The body’s immune system may become weaker years after the exposure to chemicals or radiation.
Other factors include; tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, excess use of caffeine and other drugs, sunshine, infections like cervical papilloma viruses, adenoviruses or exposure to asbestos.
These obviously are implicated as causal agents of mammalian cancers.
However, a large population of people is often exposed to these agents.
According to Kenya Network of Cancer Organization report 2016, Cancer is the 3rd highest cause of morbidity in Kenya (7% of deaths per year), after infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
Today, cancer accounts for about 1 in every 7 deaths worldwide more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.
More than 60% of cancer deaths occur in low and middle income countries, many of which lack the medical resources and health systems to support the disease burden.
the global cancer burden is growing at an alarming pace, in 2030 alone, about 21.7 million new cancer cases and 13.0 million cancer deaths are expected to occur, simply due to the growth and aging of the population.
Economic development and urbanization in low and middle income countries may further increase the number of people suffering from cancer. This is because these developments are associated with lifestyles changes such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity as well as changes in reproductive patterns.
The good news is that many of cancers can be avoided through behavioral changes, vaccination or by treating the infection.
Many of the more than 5 million skin cancer cases that are diagnosed annually could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure and not using indoor tanning devices.
Screening can prevent colorectal and cervical cancers by allowing for the detection and removal of precancerous lesions.
It can also offer the opportunity to detect some cancers early, when treatment is less extensive and more likely to be successful.
Going for regular check-ups can help to reduce mortality for cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, and lung (among long-term and/or heavy smokers).
A heightened awareness of changes in certain parts of the body, such as the breast, skin, mouth, eyes, or genitalia may result in the early detection of cancer.
For most people who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors to look out for are; body weight, diet, and physical activity.
The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition. This means they can be prevented.
Genes influence a persons risk of cancer but the highest risk is due to factors that are not inherited.
We can reduce some of the risks by avoiding tobacco products. Ensuring your weight is within the healthy range is very crucial.
Stay active throughout life and eat a healthy diet.
These behaviours are also linked to a lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Thus to achieve and maintain a healthy living make the following a daily routine;
• Read food labels to become more aware of portion sizes and calories. Be aware that “low-fat” or “non-fat” does not necessarily mean “low-calorie.” Or Eat smaller portions when eating high calorie foods
• Choose vegetables, whole fruit, and other low-calorie foods. Avoid calorie-dense foods.
• Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit flavoured drinks.
• When you eat away from home, be especially mindful to choose food low in calories, fat, and added sugar. Watch your portions.
• Limit your intake of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs.
• Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat (beef, pork, and lamb).
• Prepare meat, poultry, and fish by baking, broiling, or poaching rather than by frying or charbroiling.
• Include a variety vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks.
• Emphasize whole fruits and vegetables; choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices.
• Limit your use of creamy sauces, dressings, and dips with fruits and vegetables.
• Choose whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals (such as barley and oats) instead of breads, cereals, and pasta made from refined grains, and brown rice instead of white rice.
This article is courtesy of Douglas Kemboi, Researcher, Natural Products Chemistry, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa.