Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Cancer facts | What you need to know

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Worldwide, tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills approximately six million people each year, from cancer and other diseases.
Worldwide, tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills approximately six million people each year, from cancer and other diseases.
Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
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- Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize to distant sites.

- Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and accounted for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer are the most common types of cancer in men; while breast, colorectal, lung, cervical and stomach cancer are the most common among women.

- Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.

- Between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including avoiding tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly and addressing infection-related risk factors. In addition, a significant proportion of cancers can be cured, by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, especially if they are detected early.

- Worldwide, tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills approximately six million people each year, from cancer and other diseases. Tobacco smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.

- Dietary modification is another important approach to cancer control. There is a link between overweight and obesity to many types of cancer such as oesophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium and kidney.

- Diets high in fruits and vegetables may have an independent protective effect against many cancers. Regular physical activity and the maintenance of a healthy body weight, along with a healthy diet, considerably reduce cancer risk. In addition, healthy eating habits that prevent the development of diet-associated cancers will also lower the risk of other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

- Alcohol use is a risk factor for many cancer types, including cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. For several types of cancer, heavy drinking of alcohol combined with tobacco use substantially increases the risks of cancer. In 2010, alcohol-attributable cancers were estimated to be responsible for 337,400 deaths worldwide, predominantly among men.

- In 2012, approximately 15 per cent of all cancers were attributable to infectious agents such as helicobacter pylori, human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and Epstein-Barr virus. Vaccines are available for hepatitis B virus and some types of HPV and can reduce the risk of liver and cervical cancers, respectively.

- Pollution of air, water and soil with carcinogenic chemicals contributes to the cancer burden to differing degrees depending on the geographical settings. Outdoor air pollution is classified as carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, for humans.

- It has been estimated that outdoor air pollution contributed to 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 including more than 200,000 lung cancer deaths. Additionally, over four million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels, six per cent of these deaths are from lung cancer. Indoor air pollution from coal fires doubles the risk of lung cancer, particularly among non-smoking women. Exposure to carcinogens also occurs via the contamination of food, such as aflatoxins or dioxins.

- More than 40 agents, mixtures and exposure circumstances in the working environment are carcinogenic to humans and are classified as occupational carcinogens. It is well documented that occupational carcinogens are causally related to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and bladder cancer.

- Exposure to all types of ionising radiation, from both natural and man-made sources, increases the risk of various types of malignancy including leukaemia and a number of solid tumours. Risks increase when the exposure occurs at a young age and also when the exposure amount is higher.

- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and in particular solar radiation, is carcinogenic to humans, causing all major types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Avoiding excessive exposure, use of sunscreen and protective clothing are effective preventive measures. UV-emitting tanning devices are now also classified as carcinogenic to humans based on their association with skin and ocular melanoma cancers.

- SOURCE: World Health Organization