By Emsie Martin
World Cancer Day takes place on 4 February every year. The aim is to make people worldwide aware of cancer. Thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer every day. According to figures, almost 10 million people die of cancer every year. That is more than all the HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis deaths combined. (Statistics for Covid-19 excluded.)
Tips to reduce the risk of cancer:
- Avoid the use of any tobacco and tobacco products – including e-cigarettes. This is a very important aspect of cancer prevention. Tobacco contains at least 80 different substances that cause cancer. Even smoking a single cigarette can paralyze the cilia (hairlike structures that remove mucus from the lungs) for up to eight hours. This prevents the removal of impurities from the airways that could cause lung disease.
- Avoid alcohol. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to 200 diseases, including cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, intestinal tract, stomach, liver, kidneys and breast.
- Maintain a healthy diet by eating enough vegetables and fruit. Cut out foods that can cause obesity. Also, avoid processed meat products.
- Maintain a healthy body mass and be more physically active. Try to devote at least 30 minutes a day to physical exercise. More is better.
- Protect yourself against exposure to the sun. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. People who work outside in nature are more exposed. If at all possible, avoid the sun between 10:00 and 15:00. Try to stay in the shade when you are out of doors. It is recommended that you should wear a hat and sunglasses. Cover body parts directly exposed to the sun. Use sunscreen on a daily basis. Avoid sunbeds and sunlamps. Sunbeds have been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (which causes cancer) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These machines are able to emit high levels of UV radiation that is much stronger than the rays of the midday sun in most countries.
- Consider immunisation against the human papillomavirus and hepatitis B virus. A very strong link exists between the above viruses and cervical cancer as well as hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver cancer.
- People with a weak immune system (either due to not taking care of themselves or to medication that suppress their immune system) are more susceptible to the risk of developing cancer.
- Practice safe sexual intercourse and avoid risky sexual behaviour.
Don’t neglect your health. Familiarise yourself with the basic signs and symptoms of different types of cancer. If you detect a change in your body, consult your doctor. A thorough examination can reveal something unusual, but it may not necessarily be cancer.