Many of the types of cancer that currently cause the most deaths are the result of unhealthy lifestyles and hence could be controlled and prevented.
Tobacco consumption alone is the cause for 1.8 million deaths per year worldwide, and alcohol is the cause for an additional 351.000. Undoubtedly, these two factors could be avoided. The same thing occurs with cancers such as skin cancer, which is mainly the cause of an unhealthy exposition to the sun.
Therefore, we must be aware of these controllable risk factors, and incorporate healthy habits into our lives so as to prevent these types of diseases.
According to the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, if we commit to reducing premature death due to cancer by 2025, we would be able to reduce its death toll by 25%. Such is the claim made by the Minister of Health and Social Protection, Beatriz Londoño Soto, who explains that cancer “is a disease that can be prevented and cured if detected early. If we change our lifestyle so as to include healthy habits, such as eating five portions of fruit or vegetables per day, drinking water, exercising and avoiding smoking, we could reduce its incidence by approximately 30 per cent”.
Although a significant percentage of the actions that need to be taken in order to avoid this disease’s high rates are in the hands of the government and its action plans aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens –such as promoting potable drinking water, improving the quality of air in cities, and fostering smoke-free environments–, another equally important percentage of these actions is in our hands.
- By modifying our diet and choosing to eat a healthy and balanced diet, we can decrease the risk of being overweight, and with it, we can reduce the risk of such cancers as colon, esophageal, rectum, kidney and endometrial cancers. In addition, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can have a protective effect against other types of cancers.
- Engaging in physical activities regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults between 18 and 64 years of age exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.
- Reducing your alcohol intake to a maximum of one drink per day in the case of women and two drinks per day for men may also help prevent cancers linked to alcohol consumption such as pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal, liver, colon, rectum, breast and oral cancers.
- Implementing prevention and self-care strategies can be useful for the early detection of some types of cancers, such as breast cancer. In Colombia alone, according to the Ministry of Health’s calculations, 6,700 new cases of breast cancer occur each year, out of which 64.7% are detected at an advanced stage.
- Avoiding excessive sun exposure, using sunscreen, wearing UV-protective clothing and avoiding the use of tanning beds are some of the measures that have been proven to help prevent skin cancer.