A thoughtful message on World Cancer Day – “Ignorance is not bliss”

Dr Shivali Ahlawat
Head of National Reference Laboratory, Oncquest Laboratories Ltd.

We have developed cures for everything as a sophisticated civilization, yet the life-threatening problem of cancer persists. The first step in dealing with any problem is to become aware of it. When it comes to a life-threatening disease like cancer, awareness is the first step toward prevention. World Cancer Day is explicitly dedicated to achieving this aim, and its goal is to inculcate in everyone a sense of the seriousness of cancer and encourage its prevention, identification, and treatment.

Established in 2000 and observed on February 4th of every year, the “World Cancer Day” is a global campaign coordinated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to address one of humanity’s most significant issues. The theme for World Cancer Day 2022-24 is “Close the Care Gap. 

Cancer is a dreaded word for most people, as it is considered the second leading cause of death worldwide. That is why it is imperative to ‘close the care gap’ for cancer by increasing awareness, because this is one area in which ‘Ignorance is not bliss’. This 18th century quote by Thomas Grey generally means that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. But blissful ignorance can prove to be dangerous when it comes to your health, especially if it is related to cancer.

  • As per WHO around one-third of deaths from cancer are due to preventable factors like tobacco use, high body mass index, alcohol use, low fruit and vegetable intake, and lack of physical activity.
  • Cancer-causing infections, such as hepatitis and HPV, are again responsible for approximately 30% of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries.
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So what can we do to reduce the risk of cancer? Simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cancer & for that matter many other lifestyle related diseases too……

Saying NO to tobacco;

  •  Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths. And that includes not just lung cancer, but in fact cancer of majority of the organs of the body
  • Quitting smoking at any age has its health benefits, including reducing the risk of getting or dying from cancer. It also improves the prognosis of cancer patients and reduces their risk of getting a secondary cancer.

Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise  

  • If you are overweight or obese, you are at higher risk of developing serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones and certain cancers.  That is why maintaining a healthy weight is so important.
  • Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your total body weight can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Even if you find losing weight hard, eating a more balanced diet and exercising regularly helps lower your cancer risk.

Avoiding harmful use of alcohol; 

How Does Alcohol Use Raise Cancer Risk?

  • The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk for cancer.
  • All alcoholic drinks are linked with cancer. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. 
  • When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. This damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage. 
  • Deaths from cancer can also be reduced if cases are detected and treated early. 
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In India, The top five cancers in men and women account for nearly 47.2% of all cancers; most of these have high cure rates when detected early and treated according to best practices. 

This ‘World Cancer Day’ let us act responsibly by connecting our hands as a team and raising awareness about this severe disease and the importance of regular health care to prevent it. So, let’s make sure that we all do our part to help pave the road for a healthier global environment.