What Are The Steps To Prevent All Major Cancers In Women
- 4 Mins Read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Reshma Pathare
Women are becoming prone to different types of cancer at a faster rate. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has named cancer as a public health hazard. As recently as 2015, the 5 commonest cancers that led to maximum female mortality on a global level were breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, and stomach cancer.
- In 2020, there were 7.8 million women diagnosed with breast cancer in last five years, making it the most-prevalent cancer globally.
- WHO Global Breast Cancer Initiative (WHO-GBCI) aims to reduce death by breast cancer by 2.5% every year by propagating awareness about recognizing common signs & symptoms, early detection, and treatment options.
- Cervical cancer is the #1 cause of cancer-related death in low-income countries, owing to late diagnosis, lack of access to necessary services for prevention and detection, and low quality of treatment facilities.
- Tobacco consumption, obesity, alcohol consumption, infections, and air pollution have been recognized as five commonest causes leading to cancer.
The WHO puts immense emphasis on early diagnosis to detect symptomatic patients, followed by screening programs where diagnoses are confirmed, to arrest the disease in its tracks before it’s too late. The 2017-launched ‘Guide to Early Cancer Diagnosis’ was an endeavor by the WHO to chalk out effective strategies for identifying cancer early, to save lives and reduce the personal, societal and economic costs of cancer care.
All these initiatives are being undertaken to promote the fact that cancers are curable if detected early.
7 preventive measures to tackle cancer
Every woman can ensure that she does not become a victim of cancer by knowing what are the best ways to prevent cancer. All it needs is adhering to a few simple preventive tips, and knowing more about cancer management guidelines. Let’s see what these are:
Can exercise prevent cancer? Yes, it can!
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of women getting afflicted by around 13 types of cancer including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and colorectal cancer amongst others.
Excessive weight leads to several bodily changes such chronic inflammation, and higher levels of insulin, which in turn increase the risk of cancer manifold. A simple way to check if you’re overweight/obese is to use the BMI calculator that defines your body mass index.
A BMI of more than 25 can indicate that the woman is leaning on the side of excessive weight.
Today’s sedentary lifestyle makes it easier to gain weight. The best way to lose excessive weight without compromising your health is to get physically fit. One can start light exercises like walking, or jogging, or take a trained professional’s advice to chalk out a fitness regimen for the same.
Know about the foods that can cause cancer
With time being a constraint for most women in today’s age, it is easy to reach out for a pack of ready-to-eat meal or consume a fried snack. However, while it’s okay to indulge oneself occasionally, consistent consumption of processed meat, fried, foods, and canned foods as well as excessive alcohol can highly increase their risk of getting cancers of the breast, stomach, endometrium and ovaries.
Carcinogens that get released while processing meat can make women prone to stomach and colorectal cancer. Eating fried or refined foods cause cancerous cells to start developing in a woman’s breasts, ovaries and endometrium owing to the inflammation and oxidative stress they spark.
Ethanol (an important component of alcoholic beverages) and acetaldehyde (produced when alcohol is digested by the body) can cause DNA of healthy cells to break down and make the body susceptible to cancer.
Alcohol can also break down the hormone oestrogen (which controls oestrogen levels in a woman’s body), thus leading to excessive oestrogen production. This, in turn, leads to heightened chances of uterine cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
What foods to eat to prevent cancer in women
Just as it is important to avoid certain foods, it is equally important to include the right kinds of foods in your diet to prevent cancer, as also, acquire an immunity-rich body for other health reasons.
Women can benefit from adding a good amount of lentils, garlic, onion, tomato, green leafy vegetables, and grapes to their diet.
- Lentils contain dietary fibers that help fob off colorectal cancer.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach are rich in phytochemicals, vitamins and fiber which guard you against many cancers, especially of the colorectum.
- Lycopene, a natural powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, can help fight against development of cancers of the breast, stomach, and lungs.
- Manganese, selenium, and Vitamins B & C in garlic reduce your risk of getting breast, colon, and stomach cancers.
- Antioxidants in onion protect you from liver and colon cancer, whereas antioxidants in grapes help protect from cancers of the stomach, liver, breast and lymphatic system.
Stop smoking or consuming tobacco in any form
Smoking or tobacco consumption in other forms leads to several cancers viz. lung cancer, cervical cancer, blood cancer and cancers of the oro-facial cavity among many others.
Tobacco consumed in forms other than smoking can heighten the risk of acute myeloid leukemia. Poison from cigarette smoke deplete the body’s immunity, thus making it prone to infections leading to cancer (such as HPV-16 and HPV-18 leading to cervical cancer in women). Poison from tobacco smoke alters the DNA of cells, thus leading to the cells growing beyond control and leading to tumors.
Quitting smoking can gradually increase your immunity so as to prevent cancer from setting in. Research shows that within 10-15 years quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer gets reduced by half. Similarly, the risk of cervical cancer gets reduced by half within 20 years of quitting smoking.
Limit your exposure to solar UV radiation
While a moderate amount of exposure to the sun is good for the body, excessive exposure to its UV rays can lead to non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers.
With the ozone layer depleting over our planet, this risk is increasing day by day. WHO estimates that a 10% decrease in ozone levels will lead to an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 melanoma skin cancer cases.
Women can prevent their risk of getting skin cancer by limiting their exposure to sunlight during 10 am to 4 pm, when the sun is at its most intense. If you need to go out in this time period, it is advisable to wear long-sleeved outfits that will keep maximum skin surface safe from the sun. Wear caps, scarves, and sunglasses to prevent the sunrays from affecting your face, neck, and eyes.
Apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect yourself from UVA and UVB radiation. Water and sand reflect sunlight with great intensity, so be careful about the same. Also remember that certain medications and therapies such as antibiotics, BP medicines and chemotherapy make you more sensitive to sun.
Pay heed to common symptoms
Never ignore certain common symptoms if they keep popping up consistently. Lumps, swelling, or changes to the breast structure can indicate breast cancer.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding after sex or between periods, as well as, foul-smelling vaginal discharge can be harbingers of gynaecologic cancers such as cervical, uterine, or ovarian cancer.
Sudden appearance of moles or warts can signal skin cancer. Apart from these, rapid weight loss, constant fatigue, unexplained aches & pains, and constant cough can also warn of cancers developing within you. These are early-warning signs which must be immediately reported to the doctor who can then suggest appropriate diagnostic tests.
Vaccines and screening tests
Women can benefit immensely by undertaking simple screening tests such as the following to detect the presence of cancer cells in the body:
- Pap Smear test (once every three years from the age of 21-65)
- HPV test (every five years between the age of 30-65)
- Self-breast examination or clinical breast examination (once a year)
- Mammograms (every two years from the age of 40 onwards)
- Colorectal screening (annually, after the age of 45), and low-dose computed tomographyaka LDCT scan for lung cancer (annually, for those with smoking history of more than 20 years, or have quit within last 15 years).
- Vaccines such as HPV and Hepatitis B can go a long way from preventing cancerous build-up due to the respective infections.
- HPV vaccines should be ideally given from the age of 9 to 26 to help prevent cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulval cancer among others.
- Hepatitis B vaccine, usually given to babies at birth and then from the age of 6 to 18 months, helps prevent liver cancer caused by hepatitis B infections.
Follow these simple preventive measures and save yourself from becoming a victim to the dreaded disease called cancer.
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/activities/promoting-cancer-early-diagnosis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/obesity/index.htm
American Society of Clinical Oncology (Cancer.net) – https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/prevention-and-healthy-living/alcohol
McAnderson Cancer Center – https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/cancer-fighting-foods-women.h16-1589046.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/cancer.html
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/radiation-ultraviolet-(uv)-radiation-and-skin-cancer
American Society of Clinical Oncology (Cancer.net) – https://www.cancer.net/blog/2015-07/10-tips-protecting-your-skin-sun
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/screening.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/vaccination.htm