• 12Feb

    What you must know about cancer?

    Millions of people suffer from cancer, and coping with this disease is difficult and extremely stressful. An increasing incidence of cancers is related to multiple risk factors which have been identified in hundreds of scientific studies. This has led to an understanding than many of the cancer types can be prevented if the risk factors are taken care of. This results in an improvement in the quality of life.

    What is cancer?

    All the tissues in our body are made of cells which can be seen under a microscope. The growth of these cells occurs in a controlled fashion. The old cells die at regular interval depending on the organ and are replaced by new cells. All this occurs as per the information stored in genes. In specific conditions these cells lose control, start multiplying, do not die when old and continue to grow to form a mass of tissue called a tumor. A tumor is benign when it grows slowly, is covered by a capsule and does not spread to distant regions. This is usually not life threatening. On the contrary, malignant tumors are life threatening, grow rapidly and are capable of spreading to other organs. 


    Cancer risk factors you must know about

    Cancer risk factors are conditions which make a person prone to develop cancer. They can be non-modifiable (age, sex) or modifiable (smoking, alcohol). People can protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible. Various risk factors for cancer are described below.

    • Older age: This is a risk factor no human can escape. Most of the cancers occur in people above 65 years, though they are also seen in small children.
    • Tobacco: Tobacco consumption whether smoked or chewed is a preventable cause of cancer and other diseases leading to death. Every year, millions of people die because of lung cancer. This affects the smokers as well as secondhand smokers who are exposed to the smoke exhaled by the smokers in enclosed spaces. The smokers are more likely to get cancer of lung, oral cavity, upper airway including larynx, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, urinary bladder and cervix. It is also related to blood cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia.
    • Sunlight: Exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight increases the risk for skin cancers like squamous cell cancer.
    • Ionizing radiation: Ionizing radiation is present in x-rays, radioactive substances and rays entering earth’s atmosphere from outer space. This radiation causes sub-lethal damage to cells which start growing abnormally and result in cancer. The fallout of radiation occurs from accidents at nuclear power plants and use of atomic weapons. This may result in cancer, many years after exposure. The cancers involve thyroid, breast, lungs and stomach.
      Cancer risk factors can be non-modifiable or modifiable.

      Cancer risk factors can be non-modifiable or modifiable.

    • Medical procedures: They are a common source of radiation. Exposure to x-rays occurs while taking diagnostic radiographs of body and during Computerised scanning. During radiotherapy, the healthcare personnel may be exposed if lead aprons are not worn.
    • Exposure to chemicals: Scientific studies have shown that people working as painters, construction workers and those in the chemical industry that are exposed to asbestos, benzene, benzidine, cadmium, nickel and vinyl chloride may develop cancer.
    • Viruses and bacteria: H. Pylori, a bacterial infection of stomach can result in cancer. Viruses associated with cancer include Epstein barr virus, human immunodeficiency virus and human papilloma virus.
    • Family history of cancer: Such cancers are due to genetic mutations and are transmitted from one generation to the next generation. These include cancer of breast, colon, ovary, prostate.
    • Alcohol: Long term alcohol abuse is associated with cirrhosis of liver which may progress to cancer. It is also associated with cancer of mouth, upper aero-digestive tract and breast.
    • Diet and exercise: High fat diet is associated with cancer of colon. Obesity is related to breast cancer.

     Detection of cancer in a person changes life in many ways. It reduces the extent and quality of life. Awareness about this condition and knowledge of risk factors is useful. Any undue exposure to such factors will help in prevention of cancer.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

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