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Tackling The Scourge of Cancer; A Plea

The scourge of cancer continues to spread across our world beyond the boundaries of age race and color.

In spite of our knowledge of cancers, their risk factors, tumor markers and oncogenes, cancer deaths seem to continue to skyrocket with almost no restrictions as to which organs can be ravaged and totally taken over by cancer cells.

As some have said, if we look at the situation from a certain angle the warning from the World Health Organisation of a tidal wave of cancer sweeping the globe over the next 20 years could be considered a good news. Cancer used to largely be considered a disease of old age, with cancers such as breast, lung, colon, ovarian prostate and cervical been expected mostly in older age group – this meant that more people in the world were surviving long enough to get it. But while it is good to grow old (rather than die young) no one wants to die of cancer. However many cancers still kill people before their time as we have begun to some of the above listed cancers in the middle age group. Cancer has continued to impose an immense and growing burden on families, health systems and states that care to notice. Hence the WHO’s alarm call

The World Health Organisation estimates that the worldwide burden will rise by 70 per cent from 14 million cases in 2012 to 24 million in 2035, much of it borne by poorer countries. Of all the exports of the modern world, cancer is one of which we should feel least proud. Once a disease of rich countries it is now a global epidemic – and the Westernisation of traditional lifestyles is in large part to blame. Cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, sedentary lifestyles – all are fuelling its growth. 

Many believe that a huge percentage of cancer cases could be avoided, with "simple" dietary and lifestyle modifications. For example, Dr Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer says "Prevention is the key, with the single most effective measure thought to be curbs on the tobacco industry.  

In China, One billion deaths were recorded from smoking alone in the last century. Lung cancer remains the commonest form of cancer in China – and the world. It accounts for almost one in five of all cancer deaths.  

Asides from cigarette smoking, certain Western diets have been associated the development of cancers. Even with a family history of cancer or in someone already battling the disease, it is believed that this lifestyle modifications can help in fighting off cancer.   

What we eat and what we don't eat has a powerful effect on our health including the risk of cancer. For example, a daily serving of red or processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs) increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 20 percent , while eating whole soy foods like Green Soybeans (Edamane) can reduce the risk of breast cancer. How you prepare your meat also matters! ; Prepare meat, poultry and fish by baking, broiling or poaching fathers than by frying or charboiling. Whole grain breads, pasta and cereals should be choosen over breads, cereals and pasta made from refined grains. 

Dairy protein consumption has been implicated as a risk factor for prostate cancer, while eating more fruits and vegetables lower the risk of colon cancers and a variety of common cancers. Alcohol and Obesity have also been known to be drivers of cancers, especially breast cancers.  

Yes Cancers are deadly, unfortunately family history plays a role in many cancers yet we know that certain cancers are preventable, we've known that for the last 3 decades maybe. But what has the privileged West done about it? Are we really doing enough? Have we acted on all the volumes of information in our medical books and journals? From Smoking, to Obesity to Alcohol consumption to our diets? Are we going to watch the rates of cancer soar, from laryngeal to tongue to penile cancers. Is there yet something to be done by those who can? Bans on smoking and ultra-cheap alcohol may be a start, but can we do more? 

Is this a case of the Western world having started a global epidemic, asking the middle- and low income countries to do as they say , but not as they do? 

Certainly, tackling the scourge of cancer in the world over will require both genuine responsibility and action from all stakeholders in both the developed and developing economies from governments to individuals. Everyone has a Role, shall we?  


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