Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Avoiding the cancer death toll

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:10 AM

Last week Tuesday was celebrated as World Cancer Day – a day to bring the debilitating and deadly non-communicable disease (NCD) to the forefront of our minds.

According to Jamaica Moves, 40 per cent of cancers are preventable and action can be taken by making changes in our lives to prevent and/or reduce our risk of getting certain cancers.

As at the latest statistics, in Jamaica, the cancers that occur most are prostate, breast, colorectal, lung and cervical cancers, and there are certain changes we can all make to reduce our risk of getting them or dying from them. While many cancers are not primarily preventable, death from the cancer can be prevented through screening and early detection.

1. Do not use tobacco

Tobacco use, as well as exposure to tobacco, increases your risk of getting a number of cancers. Tobacco use is said to be responsible for almost 90 per cent of all lung cancer and is linked to a number of other cancers, including: mouth and throat, voice box, cervical, liver, pancreas, stomach, colorectal and rectum cancers, among others.

If you smoke any tobacco products, stop! And if you do not smoke tobacco, do not start!

2. Eat a healthy and balanced diet

Eating a healthy and balanced diet to meet your body’s nutritional needs is a major part of staying healthy overall and by extent reducing your risk of getting certain cancers.

n Eat more vegetables and fruits

n Reduce the amount of processed and red meat in your diet

n If you choose to drink alcohol, the more frequently you drink it and the longer you do so significantly increases your risk of getting cancers, such as breast cancer.

3. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight

Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle and obesity have been associated with a faster progression of certain cancers, such as prostate cancer. Stay active; it is recommended that adults get 30 minutes of activity every day. And try to maintain a healthy weight.

4. Engage in preventive behaviours

Practise safe sex. Avoid having multiple sexual partners and use a condom all the time. Otherwise, you are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes more than 70 per cent of all cervical cancer in Jamaica. In addition, HPV is linked to other cancers such as vaginal, penile, oral, throat, and other cancers. In Jamaica, the HPV vaccine is also available and is recommended for girls starting at 11 to 12 years old.

Age is a major risk factor for all cancers. Ask your doctor about your risk for getting certain cancers, how you can lower your risk and what cancer screening tests are recommended for you and when. Take action to prevent cancer and death from cancer today.

Jamaica Moves is the country’s coordinated national response to the increased incidence of NCDs. Through education, engagement and the building of supportive environments, the campaign hopes to reduce NCDs by 25 per cent by the year 2025.