Know your cancer facts

The World Health Organization recently updated its cancer guide and has some astounding facts that could change the way you look at cancer and what you’re putting in your body.

Key facts

Not surprisingly, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and the most deadly type, by far, is lung cancer. The astounding fact is that 1 in 3 of these deaths could have been avoided with simple dietary or habit changes. Tobacco use, for example, is the leading cause in 7 out of 10 lung cancer deaths. Although quitting tobacco is not easy for most users, taking the step to avoid this major risk factor will give you a greater chance of staying cancer free.

If you are not a tobacco user, other controllable risks include being over-weight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, urban air pollution, and over-use of alcohol. If any of these apply to you it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get cancer, but by working to improve or overcome them you will be taking your health into you own hands.

There were 8.2 million cancer deaths in 2012 alone and the most deadly cancer types are lung, liver, stomach, colon/rectal and breast cancers. Even though genetics and environmental factors contribute to the growing cancer tally, WHO reports that preventative measures can be taken, which is empowering and instills hope that cancer doesn’t have to be inevitable.

Chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are leading risk factors for cancer in low- and middle-income countries. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and can cause cervical cancer, which in most cases could be prevented with safe sex practices and immunizations.

It is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million within the next two decades so reducing your chances of getting cancer is more important than ever before. Cancer can be reduced and controlled by knowing and avoiding the risk factors, detecting cancer early and aggressive management of the disease once diagnosed. Many types of cancer have a high chance of cure if detected early and treated adequately.

Consider these prevention strategies:

  • Achieve a healthy BMI
  • Increase intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid tobacco use and limit exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Vaccinate against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) – The diseases they prevent are often precursors to cervical cancer
  • Control occupational hazards
  • Reduce exposure to sunlight

Here are some resources for you to learn how to limit your cancer risk.

The WHO site

Quit smoking for good

Save your skin – preventing skin cancer

Preventive care for women

Preventing colorectal cancer

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