Today (4 February) is World Cancer Day. Cancer is the king of health terrors – it is a large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs. The latter process is called metastasizing and is a major cause of death from cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths, or 1 in 6 deaths, in 2018.
In Malaysia, about 100,000 people suffer from cancer each year. The top 10 types of cancer in Malaysia throughout 2012-2016 are: breast cancer, followed by colorectal cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer, leukaemia, prostate cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer and ovarian cancer.
There is now a growing burden of cancer among the Malaysian population. 1 in 4 Malaysians are likely to develop cancer by the age of 75, and cancer incidence in Malaysia is expected to double by 2040. This creates tremendous physical, emotional and financial strain on individuals, families, communities and health systems.
The good news is that cancer can be prevented.
DAILY CHOICES Affect Cancer Risk
According to the WHO, about 30% of the world’s cancer deaths could be avoided by a change of lifestyle and more healthy behaviours. For example, every year 1.5 million people die globally from cancer linked to tobacco – deaths which are preventable if people avoid smoking. Cigarette SMOKING is a strong risk factor for lung, bladder, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic, and head and neck cancers.
Other avoidable risk factors for cancer are alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
> Getting regular EXERCISE helps avoid obesity, which is linked to cancer risk, and also regulates hormonal levels that are known to affect cancer risk.
> Limiting how much ALCOHOL we drink is important as the total lifetime exposure to alcohol is an important determinant of future risk of breast, esophageal, liver, colorectal, stomach, mouth, and certain head and neck cancers.
> Diets high in PLANT FOODS – fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and beans – fend off certain cancers. Fibre-rich foods (eg: wholegrains, vegetables and fruit) can protect against bowel cancer. A diet high in wholegrains can protect against weight gain – being overweight and obese is linked to an increased risk of 12 cancers. Vegetables and fruit can protect against cancers of the mouth, throat and digestive tract.
The cancer miracle isn’t a cure. It’s prevention. Dr Christopher Wild, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer said, “We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem.” Advances in treatment alone will never be enough to fully stem the burden of cancer. “The only solution is a full-scale defense, so that nobody suffers the disease in the first place,” says a report in Harvard Public Health.
Cancer brings pain and sorrow wherever it strikes. Cancer prevention saves time, money – and avoids all that suffering.
This year’s World Cancer Day theme “I am and I will” is a reminder that each one of us can play a role in reducing the impact of cancer. Stop cancer before it starts. Start by making simple changes in your daily life.
FIND OUT how easy it is to prevent cancer with our handy CAP Guide, “PREVENT CANCER”, available here: