What you need to know:
- No one can fully eliminate the risk of getting cancer.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle, protect yourself from carcinogenic substances, and get screened regularly.
Cancer is a frightening word for anyone to hear. It is a difficult illness to treat and, more often than not, leaves the patient and family in financial ruins. Even as scientists commit their efforts and resources to pinpoint causes and find cures, it is imperative for everyone to take every measure to avoid getting ill in the first place.
Knowing factors that make it more likely to get cancer is the first step in protecting yourself.
Here are 9 risk factors that you should know
A family history of cancer
Cancer can be hereditary. If you have a father, grandfather, or brother who has had cancer, your risk of developing the disease increases. If you have had cancer before, you are also at a higher risk of getting the illness again. There isn't much you can do about your heredity, but knowing that you are at a higher risk of getting cancer should prompt you to get screened regularly. Early detection and treatment increase the chances of recovery significantly. You might even catch the tumour before it's malignant.
The older you are, the greater your risk of developing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 77% of all cancer cases and almost 67% of cancer deaths occur in people aged 55 or older. Older men are therefore advised to get screened regularly.
Cigarette smoking is linked with numerous types of cancer, including cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and cervix. In fact, smoking is responsible for about 25% of all cancer deaths. Avoid cigarettes and smokers. If you are already a smoker, make efforts to reduce or quit the practice and live a healthier lifestyle. Also, get screened, especially for lung cancer.
A diet high in fat, processed wheat, and sugar can increase your risk of cancer. Eating a lot of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) has also been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. These foods lower your immunity level making it hard for the body to fight any malignant cells in your body. On the other hand, foods rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts boost your immunity and reduce the risk of cancer in men.
Being obese or overweight can increase your risk of developing cancer, as well as make it more difficult to treat the disease. Just like unhealthy diets, obesity lowers your body's immunity. In addition, obesity causes other illnesses such as frequent inflammations, high blood sugar, and irregular secretion of hormones. All these create an ideal condition for cancer to start and develop.
A healthy diet and 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week are usually adequate to address obesity. However, if the problem persists, talk to an expert to guide you on how you can lose weight in a healthy way.
Exposure to cancer-causing agents
Certain chemicals and other substances are known to cause cancer. Asbestos, for example, is a carcinogen that has been linked to mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer. If you work with asbestos or in an environment where you are exposed to carcinogenic substances on a regular basis, get screened and take measures to protect yourself.
Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause cancer. This is why people who work in nuclear power plants or who have had radiotherapy are at a higher risk of developing the disease. If you are exposed to radiation, make sure you get screened regularly.
Certain drugs that suppress the immune system can increase your risk of developing cancer. These drugs are used to treat conditions like autoimmune diseases, transplant rejection, and certain types of cancer. Since these are prescription medications, your doctor is aware of the risk. They will warn and monitor you regularly. If you get a new doctor, inform them of the medication you were taking so that they can monitor you too.
Excessive sun exposure
Too much time in the sun can lead to skin cancer. If the exposure is enough to cause sunburns, it can also cause skin cancer. This risk applies to people of all complexions, and skin types. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and wear protective clothing when you know you'll be in the sun for an extended time.