What do you know about Cancer? 

The following are extracts from the World Health Organization [WHO]:

What is Cancer? “… One defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs. This process is referred to as metastasis, the major cause of death from cancer.”

What causes cancer? “Cancer arises from one single cell transforming from a normal cell into a tumour cell. It is a multi-stage process, typically a progression from a pre-cancerous lesion to malignant tumours. These changes are the result of the interaction between a person's genetic factors and environmental factors. The environmental factors are three categories of external agents, including:

  • physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation;
  • chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and
  • biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites.”
Why is age a factor?Ageing is a fundamental factor. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older.”

What are the main risk factors for cancers?Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main cancer risk factors worldwide.  Chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are leading risk factors for cancer in low- and middle-income countries. Cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV, is a leading cause of cancer death among women in low-income countries.”

What are key facts about Cancer? The following is an edited and reduced version of some key facts from the World Health Organization (WHO):

·    In 2008, Cancer accounts for about around 13% of all deaths worldwide. That amounts to about 7.6 million deaths in 2008. About 70% of these cancer deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries
·    Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year.
·    About 30% of cancer deaths 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, alcohol use.
·    Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing 22% of global cancer deaths and 71% of global lung cancer deaths.
·    Cancer causing viral infections such as HBV/HCV and HPV are responsible for up to 20% of cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
My 2 sens comments As a general rule, poor people in poor countries mainly die of infectious diseases; wealthy people in wealthy countries die of self-indulgence. This is shown in the following pictures from WHO:
·       4 of the 10 leading causes of death are infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries. In comparison, 9 of the 10 leading causes are non-communicable diseases in high-income countries. [1]
·       In most countries (low, middle and high income alike), about 27% of people die of heart diseases (Coronary heart disease 17.1%; Stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases 9.8%).
What does it all mean to us? If you are 60 years and above you automatically become a natural member of our Senior Ageing Club (‘sac’). As a SAC member, we are more eligible to risks of cancer; cancer has become more real to us. However, if you have a good diet and keep fit regularly, you may automatically get a great discount from age as a risk factor.
In plain English, does this mean – Get off your bum and keep fit if you want to keep cancer away from you?
Gim Teh/ Friday, 10 August 2012
·       http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/index.html [Fact sheet N°297 February 2012]