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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Health News Today: Cancer--An Overview

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It accounted for 7.4 million deaths in 2004. Lung, stomach, liver, colon, and breast cancer cause the most cancer, with tobacco use the single most important risk factor. Worldwide cancer deaths is projected to climb, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030.
Cancer is the name given to diseases in which cells multiply abnormally. Cancer cells are called "rebel" cells because they do not follow genetic instructions.
Cancer cell error occurs when there is mutation in a single cell which eventually lead to abnormal cell division. For cancer cells to thrive, they need oxygen and therefore they invade into blood vessels. Once they are in blood vessels, they go into other parts of the body and grow. This process is called metastasis.
What causes cancer?
Cancer be caused by any or a combination of the following: heredity and external agents. Three categories of external agents include:
  • physical carcinogens (ultraviolet and ionizing radiation)
  • chemical carcinogens (asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin [a food contaminant], and arsenic [a drinking water contaminant])
  • biological carcinogens (infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites)
Examples of infections associated with certain cancers
  • viruses: hepatitis B and liver cancer, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Kaposi carcoma.
  • bacteria: Helicobacter pylori and stomach cancer
  • parasites: schistosomiasis and bladder cancer
Cancer risk factors
  1. tobacco use
  2. being overweight or obese
  3. low fruit and vegetable intake
  4. physical inactivity
  5. alcohol use
  6. sexually transmitted HPV-infection
  7. urban air pollution
  8. indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels
Prevention strategies
  • increase avoidance of the risk factors listed above
  • vaccinate against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • control occupational hazards
  • reduce exposure to sunlight
American Cancer Society (ACS) Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention
Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
  • Balance caloric intake with physical activity.
  • Avoid excessive weight gain throughout the life cycle.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight if currently overweight or obese.
Adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • Adults: engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, at least 5 days per week. Forty-five to 60 minutes of intentional activity are preferable.
  • Children and adolescents: engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days per week.
Consume a healthy diet, with emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
There are three modalities to treat cancer: 
  1. Surgery (when tumor is localized) 
  2. Radiation therapy (when tumor is too big for surgery)
  3. Drugs, such as chemotherapy (when cancer has spread). Chemotherapy, which often leads to nausea and hair loss, can shrink certain proportions of cancer and may prolong the life of some patients. 
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