Cancer is a constellation of over two hundred diseases. While they have common characteristics, they are very different from each other. This makes it difficult to isolate or treat.
Globally, Lung Cancer has the highest prevalence. Smoking, environmental pollution, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity are major cancer risk factors worldwide.
Cancers are also a part of the four shared risk factors for other non-communicable diseases. Approximately 15 out of 100 cancer cases diagnosed in 2012 were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Hepatitis C virus, Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B virus.
Chronic infections like Hepatitis B and C virus and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.
However, the epidemiology of cancers is patterned around the sexes; while women are most prone to breast cancer, colorectal cancer and cancer of the lungs in this order, men are most likely to come down with prostate cancer, followed by cancer of the lungs, then colorectal.
Furthermore, the incidence is also geographically diverse, for instance, Americans suffer more skin cancers than Africans. Africa records the lowest cases of leukaemia, while North America with 9 cases out of every 100,000 records the highest incidences based on WHO 2014 statistics.
Receiving the diagnosis of cancer can be a frightening thing. The good news is that there are more options today than there ever was in the treatment of cancer.
Cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. It accounted for 8.8 million deaths in 2015.
Cancer refers to abnormal growth of cells which may occur in any part of the body. They are classified as either benign or malignant. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of:
- Lung (1.69 million deaths)
- Liver (788 000 deaths)
- Colorectal (774 000 deaths)
- Stomach (754 000 deaths)
- Breast (571 000 deaths)
Benign cancers are usually not invasive and are treatable but malignant cancers (as the name implies) are invasive and terminal.
Early detection and commencement of treatment in both forms give a better prognosis.
Cancer can be better prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle; balanced diet, regular exercise, avoiding pollutants, adequate rest and stress management among others.
About one-third of all cancers can be prevented. This underscores the importance of regulatory measures, as well as health campaigns that advocate for physical activity, healthy diet, HPV vaccination, controlled access to and against tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol.
Behavioural changes and lifestyle that sees an increase in consumption of nutritional and healthy diets, engaging in daily exercise or physical activities, limiting or reducing exposure to tobacco smoke, reducing consumption of soda and sweetened drinks, maintaining a consistently healthy weight, participating in cancer screening or getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B are all measures that could keep one at less risk from cancer –the second leading cause of global death.