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Is Cancer Preventable? - Facts & Infographic

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Understanding Cancer

"Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (tobacco, infectious organisms, chemicals, and radiation) and internal factors (inherited mutations, hormones, immune conditions, and mutations that occur from metabolism). These causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or promote the development of cancer. Ten or more years often pass between exposure to external factors and detectable cancer. Cancer is treated with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy." – American Cancer Society


Cancer In Numbers

In 2012, an estimated 1,638,910 new cancer cases were detected in the U.S. According to early 2012 projections, the year would see 577,190 deaths in the U.S. alone. In 2010, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, cancer was the second leading cause of deaths in the country with a toll of over 574,743. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics for 2008, colon and rectum cancers and breast cancers were the seventh and tenth leading causes of death in high-income countries. It is also one of the leading causes of death world-wide with a 7.6 million (13% of all deaths) death toll in 2008. By 2030, it is predicted that over 30 million deaths will be due to cancer and that it may become the leading cause of death.

In 2008, the top cancers were those affecting the lung (1.37 million deaths), stomach (736,000 deaths), liver (695,000 deaths), colon and rectum (608,000 deaths), breast (458,000 deaths), and cervix (275,000 deaths).


Cancer Risk Factors

Obesity - Excess body weight, obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of adequate physical activity are linked to one third of all cancer deaths across the world. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a study based on NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data suggests that about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men and 50,500 in women in the U.S. in the year 2007 were caused by obesity.

Tobacco/Smoking - Smoking and tobacco use is the known cause of many other types of cancer such as cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, lungs, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Americans. Smoking causes 90% lung cancer in men and 80% lung cancer in women.

Family History – Cancer runs in families for one of three reasons: chance or accidental occurrence, shared lifestyles/environmental factors, and/or genetic factors. According to the Cancer Council, Australia, only about 5% of cancers in families are caused by sharing a faulty gene. This risk is, however, significantly higher in certain types or kinds of cancer such as cancers of the breast, overies, cervix, prostate, colon and rectum, etc. According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, women with at least one blood relative with breast cancer have a 2 to 4 times enhanced risk of developing it..

Age – According to a news article in US News, the vast majority of cancers occur in people who are over 50 years of age. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Buck Institute for Age Research, the DNA damage caused by free radicals causes both cancer and aging.

Occupation – A number of occupations are exposed to factors that increase the risks of developing cancer. According to a research paper published in the November 2006 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have much higher rates of prostate cancer as others. According to research findings from Centre INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier and Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal, men working in night-shifts throughout have a significantly raised risk of developing colorectal, lung, bladder, and prostate cancers. According to Cancer Research UK, adults spending over 55% of the time at a desk job double their risks of developing colorectal cancer.

Lifestyle – A number of other lifestyle factors are known to influence the development of cancers. Use of oral contraceptives, certain pesticides, cell phones, food colorants and additives, high soda consumption and such factors are known to influence cancer development.


Top 10 Reasons To Get Screened

Unexplained weight loss – Unexplained weight loss accompanies many kinds of cancers. Screening or investigation as prescribed by a physician goes a long way in prevention.

Constant low-grade fever – In many cancers such as leukemia, the body’s immune system is destroyed and constant fever is a symptom.

Skin changes – Skin cancers often show up as patchiness, pock marks, and pigmentation. It is best to consult a dermatologist when these first appear.

Constant fatigue – Constant fatigue is a symptom of many cancers, as cancer cells use up much of the body's energy to multiply. Constant fatigue should not be ignored.

Unusual bleeding or discharge – Unusual bleeding, pain or any other discharge could be a symptom of uterine or cervical cancer among women.

Thickening or lump – Lump formation on the breast, thickening of tissue in any other part of the body could be malignant and warrant early screening.

Nagging cough/hoarseness – Throat cancers are often accompanied with hoarseness of voice and a nagging cough. The symptoms need investigation when they last over a month.

Sore/ulcer that does not heal – Wounds, sores, and ulcers that do not heal over time must be screened for malignancy. White patches or mouth ulcers that remain raw need investigation.

Change in bladder functions – A number of cancers show up as an abnormal change in bladder functions and bowel movements over a long period of time.

Constant nausea/lack of appetite – While nausea or loss of appetite may be caused by a number of diseases, in combination with any of the above symptoms or when present over a long time, they warrant investigation.


My Medical Choice”

Celebrated American actress Angelina Jolie revealed in May 2013 that she had undergone preventive double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. In her New York Times blog "My Medical Choice", Ms Jolie tried to make an attempt to raise awareness about the BRCA1 gene which greatly enhances her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Ms Jolie’s mother and aunt died of cancer too. The presence of the BRCA1 gene increases the risk of breast cancer in women by about 65% and of ovarian cancer by about 50%. The 37-year-old actress underwent three months of surgeries and other medical procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in California. This includes the mastectomies and surgical reconstruction of breasts.

In her blog, Ms Jolie wrote, “For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices”. According to World Health Organization statistics quoted by the American actress, breast cancer causes the death of over 458,000 people across the world each year. The main obstacles to pursuing such a preventive surgery are the costs and availability of screening and surgery and the social stigma associated with mastectomy, especially in low- and middle-income countries.


What’s Your Action Plan?

Popular cancer treatment options include Chemotherapy, Radiation, Surgery (Removal and Transplant), Targeted Therapies and Biological Therapies.

Some kinds of cancers are preventable and most others beatable with early detection. According to WHO -

"More than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including:

  • tobacco use

  • being overweight or obese

  • unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake

  • lack of physical activity

  • alcohol use

  • sexually transmitted HPV-infection

  • urban air pollution

  • indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels."


Early detection helps prevent the spread and fatalities. Women above the age of 40 or nearing menopause need to go in for annual PAP tests and mammograms. PSA screening of men over 45 years of age is also recommended annually. Preventive surgery including mastectomy and hysterectomy are also options. Awareness is, however, the most important factor in preventing cancers and in assisting existing patients. The spread of cancers caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can be greatly controlled with adequate precautions. Cancers caused by use of tobacco or alcohol are completely avoidable. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, a clean environment, medical precautions, and leading a vigilant lifestyle are the best ways to prevent most cancers.


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Is Cancer Preventable.

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For further info please get in touch with
Bill Spicer Executive VP, MapXL
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  (408) 637-0064   bill@mapxl.com