Fight cancer with a healthy lifestyle


KOCHI: Each year, February 4 is observed as World Cancer Day to raise cancer awareness and encourage its prevention, detection and treatment. This year with the hashtag #IAmAndIWill, it looks at how everyone, be it an individual, a healthcare professional, join and create an activity to learn more and spread the word.

This is critical because, with the increase in non-communicable diseases, cancer is racing to the top of the mortality charts.

Today, cancer is the second most common disease in India but is responsible for the maximum mortality. In fact, cancer deaths in India account for over 8 per cent of cancer deaths in the world. IMCR data for 2016 gives the number of cancer patients in India at 14 lakhs and this number is expected to increase. The commonest cancers in India are breast cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer.

One of the key factors responsible for the rise in cancer is the change in our diet and lifestyle. A changing diet and a passive lifestyle with lack of physical activity are contributing
to the rise of lifestyle diseases. Today, we see even children being stuck to playing games on their smartphones, eschewing active outdoor games. As we grow, this turns into sedentary
jobs at our laptops in offices. Other than cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases are also linked to an unhealthy lifestyle.

The rise in cancer has a close correlation with lifestyle factors like tobacco consumption, harmful alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet and obesity. Breast cancer follows the risk factors linked to the age of menarche and menopause, obesity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption. The increase in lung cancer is from abuse of tobacco and is found to be a contributing factor in 95% of lung cancers, while colorectal cancer is influenced by a diet that includes more of red meat and a sedentary lifestyle that leads to obesity. Consumption of alcohol in excess leads to an increased risk of cancers of the digestive system including cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, food pipes, colon, rectum, liver, breast and pancreas.
Abstaining from the use of tobacco be it in the form of cigarettes for smoking or chewing is a very important aspect to bring down the risk of cancer, mainly of the lung. Educating people on the responsible consumption of alcohol in moderation is also important. Ideally, both tobacco and alcohol should be avoided for a healthy life and to reduce the risk of cancer.

A healthy holistic lifestyle with physical activity is important. Children should be encouraged to be active right from childhood and should be taught to take better care of their own health. For the adults, cancer awareness programs should be implemented along with early detection and cancer screening. Since only around 12-13 per cent of cancer patients come for treatment in the early stages of the disease, periodical screening programs for lifestyle diseases and cancer are important, especially after the age of 40. It is the responsibility ofeach of us to educate others about a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention and screening.
So this World Cancer Day, let each of us take a pledge to be concerned about cancer and to act to prevent and catch it early!