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Image source: Google
Image source: Google

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.

Risk factors for cancers

Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity are major cancer risk factors worldwide and are also the 4 shared risk factors for other non-communicable diseases.

Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer and have major relevance in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 15% of cancers diagnosed in 2012 were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Helicobacter pylori, Human papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus3.

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.

Dr Minish Jain, senior oncologist from Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, said, “Between 30–50% of cancers can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.”

Dr Amit Bhat, oncologist from Pune, said, “Tobacco use including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, being overweight or obese, unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, alcohol use, sexually transmitted HPV-infection, infection by hepatitis or other carcinogenic infections, ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels are important factors which causes cancer.”

Pursue prevention strategies

  • To prevent cancer, people may:
  • Increase avoidance of the risk factors listed above;
  • Vaccinate against HPV and hepatitis B virus;
  • Control occupational hazards;
  • Reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation;
  • Reduce exposure to ionizing radiation (occupational or medical diagnostic imaging).
  • Vaccination against these HPV and hepatitis B viruses could prevent 1 million cancer cases each year3.

Cancer mortality can be reduced if cases are detected and treated early.

When identified early, cancer is more likely to respond to effective treatment and can result in a greater probability of surviving, less morbidity, and less expensive treatment.

Significant improvements can be made in the lives of cancer patients by detecting cancer early and avoiding delays in care.

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