Cancer is a broad term that describes a large group of different diseases. However, all cancer shares few common features, such as, uncontrolled cell growth, abnormal appearance under microscope, and ability to spread to distant organs. In addition, carcinogenesis is a complex process, which includes initiation characterized by DNA mutation either spontaneously or due to exposure to carcinogens; promotion causing cell divisions due to intra or extra cellular stimulus; and progression when cancer cells metastasize to another organ.
To prevent cancers, we first must understand the risk factors for cancers. Although vast majority of cancers arises denovo, there are many known risk factors for cancers as well.
Age and gender, as we grow old our risk for cancer goes up. Some cancers are gender specific such as breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. Sunlight causes skin cancer. Tobacco causes lung cancer, and bladder cancer. Alcohol causes head and neck cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. HPV virus can cause cervical cancer, and head and neck cancer. BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutation can cause breast cancer.
In USA more than 5 million people each year gets skin cancers. More than a million people each year are diagnosed with lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers; more than half a million patients die from cancer each year. Many of these cancers can be prevented.
Skin cancer – follow sun safety such as cover exposed skin when outside, wide brim hat, use SPF 15+ sunscreen every two hours, avoid sun between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, avoid artificial tanning.
Lung Cancer – avoiding tobacco or stopping tobacco use will reduce lung cancers by 95%.
Breast Cancer – alcohol consumption in moderation, avoiding hormone replacement therapy may reduce breast cancer.
Prostate Cancer – low fat diet, eating more vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or soy derived food has been linked to reduce incidence of prostate cancer, hormone blocking agents such as finasteride can lower risk of prostate cancer.
Cervical Cancer – HPV vaccines has shown to prevent cervical and head and neck cancer.
Like infectious disease and heart diseases, prevention will be key to reduce incidence and mortality from cancers. The best news is that in last 2 decades deaths from cancers has declined by 33% due to less smoking, early detection, and advancements in cancer treatments.
Hasan Murshed, MD is a cancer specialist and board-certified radiation oncologist. Reach him at (850) 481-1687 or www.HopeRegionalCancerCenter.com. This information is intended for education only. For treatment, seek advice from your physician.