Srinagar: A common misconception is that the determining factor in getting cancer is genetics or just bad luck. In fact, simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.
To know more on this, The Kashmir Monitor spoke to valley-based oncologists on National Cancer Awareness Day. Experts highlighted increased awareness about less talked about cancer prevention strategies and the consumption of the right diet.
“The early detection and treatment are not the only — or even best — ways to fight cancer. An even more effective strategy is simply preventing cancer in the first place. And most cancers are preventable,” Dr. Faisal Guru, Pediatric Oncologist, SKIMS Soura said.
He said the research suggests that about 70% of your lifetime risk of cancer is within your power to change, including your diet.
“The patients are often told about the increased risk of diabetes and heart disease from being overweight or obese — but we rarely tell them that obesity also increases their cancer risk. As health experts, we have a lot of work to do to educate people on the specific steps they can take to prevent cancer in their own lives,” he said.
As per Union Health Ministry’s figures, J&K has reported an estimated 39041 cancer cases, of which 12675 were recorded in 2019, 13012 in 2020, and 13354 in 2021. Figures point out that there is a constant increase in cancer cases.
It is also worth mentioning that a recent SKIMS study attributed the growing incidence of cancers to “food habits and lifestyle patterns” as also to the consumption of high salt content foods.
“Many dyes, used in industries and sometimes in foods, are also thought to act as human carcinogens. And some of these dyes, like carmoisine and tartrazine, have been found to be used as a coloring agent in many edibles, spices, and condiments in Kashmir,” it said.
Dr. Ulfat Ara Wani, Medical Oncologist at Government Super Specialty Hospital Shireen Bagh said cancers of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, stomach, breast, and colon have been associated with obesity.
“People need to know about the relationship between physical inactivity and cancer cell growth — because the science on the subject speaks volumes. Getting in your daily 10,000 steps isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not enough for cancer prevention. That requires working up a sweat for 20 minutes to half an hour about five days a week,” Dr. Ulfat said.
She added that varying your daily diet is important. “A good rule of thumb is to eat at least three different colors of fruits and vegetables each day. There are different bioactive ingredients in the pigment of fruits and vegetables that may reduce cancer risks,” Dr. Ulfat said.
Dr. Ulfat said it’s also time to explain how chronic stress, and the hormones it creates, may decrease immune function — and how to relieve that stress.
“If you are experiencing anxiety and stress that won’t quit, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it, and ask for help from a support group, counselor, or mental health professional. And don’t forget the importance of quality sleep as well as quantity. Sleep is a time for your body to clear out toxins,” she said.
Dr Ulfat said overall we need to empower people with the knowledge they need to take control of their cancer risk.
“We need public health campaigns that connect our daily health choices to cancer risk. It may not be glitzy to show the relationship between lack of physical activity and growth of cancer cells, or how chronic stress can contribute to cancer risk, but that’s what the science tells us. That’s the kind of information that people need and deserve,” she said.