Cancer is a complex and diverse disease. There are different influences and risk factors, which can promote the starting process or accelerate it. However, others can reduce its progress.
I would like to summarize some of the influences and risk factors you should take into account when talking about cancer.
The rate of cancer incidence mainly depends on:
- The environment.
- The lifestyle.
- The diet.
These are the three common factors that influence the development of cancer.
For example, it is reported a high incidence of stomach cancer in Japan. This is due to the high consumption of uncooked food, especially fish (i.e. sushi). However, in Kuwait it is the other way around.
I should also mention that Japan has a low incidence in skin cancer. Nevertheless, Australia has the highest.
In our daily lives we are exposed to the environment, specific from where we live, in which there are positive as well as negative factors. The following ones are risk factors that we should take into account:
- Hereditary genetic anomalies.
- Exposure to some viruses: VIH, Hepatitis B and C, Papilomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus.
- Exposure to toxic agents, radiation and sun.
- Diet too rich in fat and low in fruit and vegetables.
- Tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Generally, the cancer is manifested in advanced stages. It is a mutational process that accumulates in time, although there are always exceptions.
Over 25 million people are affected by cancer and 7 million die each year from it. The cancer disease has the leading cause of mortality for those under 25 years old.
Case Study: Lung Cancer and Pollution
Concerning exposure to toxic agents such as pollution, I read a few weeks ago that the youngest lung cancer patient was an eight-year-old Chinese girl. This girl lives near a busy road in the province of Jiangsu. She was exposed to a high level of particles and dust throughout her entire life.
Among these particles, the smallest and most dangerous type of airborne particles are the so-called PM2.5, which go directly to the bloodstream. During two weeks, some zones of Harbin (a city in China) had reached the level of 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in the atmosphere (40 times WHO’s recommendation), becoming a “smoke city” where the visibility was reduced and even some roads and airports were closed.
There is a link between high levels of PM2.5 and health problems, including lung cancer and heart disease.
The average age of lung cancer diagnosis is about 70 (according to the American Cancer Society). Thus, lung cancer cases among children are extremely rare.
The fast process of industrialization and urbanization it is behind the huge growth in China. Not only has put off 400 millions of Chinese people from poverty, but also has been the factor which has destroyed their environment.
Lung cancer deaths in China have multiplied over the past 30 years (it was reported an increase of 56% between 2001 and 2010), being lung cancer the reason of the highest mortality in men. Indeed, cancer is the main cause of death in Eastern Asia.