Know it, to control it

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care

Cancer is a major public health challenge in India. In view of financial constraints of the Indian healthcare system, the most cost-effective strategies for primary prevention of cancer, along with early detection and treatment, are a need.

One important strategy is to decrease tobacco use. Tobacco use in India has a complicated pattern of consumption, which means as much as 40% of India’s cancer burden is related to this risk factor. Unlike many other parts of the world, smokeless tobacco (also called oral tobacco, chewing tobacco or snuff) is very common in India. Second hand (passive) smoking has been proven to cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults. Indian Government has enacted national tobacco law which encompasses protection of public places from tobacco smoke exposure, tobacco labeling, advertising and sponsorship, education and public awareness, and reduction measures for tobacco dependence.

In addition to tobacco control, dietary modification is another important approach to control cancer. There is a link between overweight and obesity to some types of cancer such as esophagus, colorectal, breast, endometrium and kidney. Regular exercise and eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day will considerably reduce cancer risk.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is known to cause cervical cancer, helicobacter pylori increases the risk of stomach cancer and viral hepatitis B and C cause liver cancer.  Preventive measures including vaccination and prevention of infection and infestation should be implemented. In addition to vaccination, women should protect themselves by having Pap tests, the most common test to help detect cervical cancer.

Environmental pollution of air, water and soil with carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals accounts for 1–4% of all cancers. Exposure to these chemicals can occur through drinking water or pollution of indoor and ambient air. There are certain workplace (or occupational) carcinogens including radon, crystalline silica, diesel engine exhaust, wood dust, benzene, lead and compounds. These occupational carcinogens are causally related to cancer of the lung, bladder, larynx and skin, leukaemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. Mesothelioma