Whilst October is Breast Cancer awareness month, cancer has become a disease that was touted in 2018 as the second leading cause of death. It’s a tragedy that has most likely affected your family, and the families of your friends, colleagues and neighbours.
The World Health Organization claims that between 30-50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing evidence-based prevention strategies.
Firstly, we should consider the categories of external agents that cause cancer in order to be able to reduce our risk. There are physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet radiation, chemical carcinogens such as tobacco smoke, and biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses and bacteria.
Checking in on your healthcare cover is important, but you can also reduce your risk by taking care of your own health too. Here are some ideas…
The sun’s UV rays are damaging. Dermatologists agree that we should be using sunblock on exposed areas of our skin, every day. You can apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ and re-apply every two hours or after swimming or exercising outdoors.
Other strategies that can be adopted to minimize UV risk is to avoid direct sunlight during the peak ultraviolet radiation period (2 hours either side of noon accounting for 60% of the day’s ultraviolet radiation), or to wear protective clothing such as hats and sunglasses (Note: a wide-brim hat is preferable and the sunglasses should have a UVA/UVB protection certification on the label).
Minimizing unhealthy habits
The products we consume are inevitably interacting with our biology. Tobacco use is the single biggest risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer-related deaths worldwide. While tobacco may be the big factor that most people seem to know about there are other habits that can lead to increased risk of cancer such as being overweight or obese, excessive alcohol, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet choices with low fruit and vegetable intake and too much meat.
It isn’t only about what you should avoid, but what you should be pursuing. Leading a physically healthy lifestyle with a balanced and nutritious diet is beneficial on so many levels.
Cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment when identified early, reducing the chances of cancer mortality. Early detection depends on three measures: awareness, clinical evaluation and access to treatment.
The diagnosis and treatment is up to the medical professionals and the financial cover that we are provided, but we do have influence over our own, and others, awareness. Cancer can be an uncomfortable subject to broach, but if simple conversations lead to an increase in early detection then a little discomfort is worth it.