Dr. Nazir Ahmad Khan
Cancer is emerging as a major health problem and cannot be ignored. World cancer day on 4th February 2018 is taking place under the tagline “We can, I can”. This day is organized to explore how everyone as a collective or as individuals can play part in reducing the burden of cancer. On this day I take an opportunity to answer the most frequently asked questions to me like, why cancer is rising? Is it in our fate? or Are we doing lot of sins? Though it is difficult to comment on the fate or sins but the fact is that the cancer in our state is on a rise at the rate of 200 cases per year. This rise is neither sudden, nor rapid but gradual.The key factor to this increase in the number of cancer cases and deaths is that the population is growing and people are living longer. This statement is true by the fact that more than 60% of cancers are seen above 45 years of age. The longer we live,the more times we have errors to buildup, more interaction with environmental factors /carcinogens, so as time passes the risk of developing cancer goes up as we accumulate more of these carcinogens in our body. But we can stack the odds of avoiding cancer in our favour. Things that happen through out our lives can speed up or slow down.Because the risk factor /carcinogen or the culprit responsible for changing a normal cell/tissue into cancerous start cumulating in the body from school going age.The body’s ability to adapt and respond to stress/risk factors depends upon the nutrition we give it. If we are not digesting our food properly to absorb nutrients, or not eating enough, or eating too much empty food or bombarding the body with environmental stressors, how can we expect that the body will maintain the balance or homeostasis to remain healthy and disease free? It is the environment in and outside the body that allows cancer to grow, why not change the environment to prevent cancer. According to Ray Peat an oncopathologist, while looking at slices of tumor, believe they can guess when the cells have an evil intention .However biologist studying living cells, believe that cells can do only what they are allowed to do by their environment .This suggest that if the body environment is changed it can influence the cell behavior .I think the internal environment of the body, is highly influenced by the external environmental factors that play a role in the creation and the disappreance of cancer. Cancer is casued by changes to certain genes that alter the way, our cell function. Some of these genetic changes occure naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division. While others are the result of environmental exposure. people can avoid some cancer causing exposures such as tobacco smoke, drinking alcohol etc. what about the chemicals that is harder to avoid, especially if they are in the air we breath, the water we drink, the food we eat or the materials we use to do our own jobs. Lot of research is needed to understand exactly which exposures are harmful , thus can be avoided.However there are some life style related factors that can be changed or modefied, like diets high in red and processed meat have contributed to the rise in bowel cancer and more and more people are becoming overweight and obese, which raises the risk of developing a number of diseases including cancer. Already established that Alcohol consumption plays an important role in developing a number of cancer cases,still the consumption is on rise day by day.Similarly, the populatiion which move towards a more westernized way of life, not exercising, eating an unhealthy diet, smoking and drinking, cancer rates will definitely rise. The rise can also be explained by some improvement in cancer diagnoses and more screening.
Modern life is killing our children. Besides air pollution, other elements of modern life styles are also to blame. Amoung these are circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night, radiation from x-ray and CT scans, smoking during and after pregnancy, magnetic fields from power lines, gadgets in homes, and potentially, radiation from mobile phones, it is all of these things coming together and it seems to be teenagers and young people that are most affected.The world health organisation has estimated that two fifths of the 14 million cases of cancer that are diagnosed every year are preventable. The main preventable causes are diet, smoking, alcohol, and infection. Cancer is currently more common in men than women, but due to changes in life style women are catching up fast and the gap is narrowing. So let us join together as we can take the initiation in reducing chances of getting cancer by eating more healthly,by avoiding alcohol and smoking, radiation exposures and doing more exercise. Every year more than 8 million people world wide die from cancer and approximately more than 600 in kashmir. Many of these deaths could be avoided with increased governmentel support for prevention, detection and treatment programs. Urgent action is needed to raise awareness about cancer, dispel myths and misconceptions and develp practical strategies to address the disease. Cancer Society of Kashmir is doing a wonderful job as it is fighting cancer on all fronts, providing financial support to poor/deserving, organize awareness and screening camps,run free oncological camps and work for early detection.In conclusion, the message is that even if the cancer is on rise, it is preventable , treatable, and if detected early curable.
Dr.Nazir Ahmad Khan is Professor Department of Radiation Oncology SKIMS Soura Srinagar
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