FEBRUARY 4 has been marked as World Cancer Day since 2006 in line with an announcement by the World Health Organisation. However, the day was first conceptualised in 1933 in Geneva, under the Union for International Cancer Control, with support from prominent cancer societies, treatment centres, research institutes and patient groups, and aiming to bring down the number of deaths caused by the deadly disease.
According to a 2008 estimate of the WHO, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for 7.6 million deaths (around 13 per cent of all deaths). The main types of cancer are: lung (1.4 million deaths), stomach (740,000), liver (700,000 deaths), colorectal (610,000 deaths), breast (460,000 deaths). About 70 per cent of all cancer deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue to rise to over 11 million in 2030. Now, cancer kills more people than HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined and about 1 death out of 8 is caused by cancer. Suffice it to say, cancer is global burden, particularly in a developing country like Bangladesh.
World Cancer Day is a chance to raise awareness of cancer and also an opportunity to unite the world to fight against the disease. Many national and international organisations are working to reduce cancer in different countries and the world.
The Union for International Cancer Control has chosen ‘Cancer: Did you know?’ as the theme of World Cancer Day 2013, focusing on the World Cancer Declaration: Dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer:
Myth 1: Cancer is just a health issue. Truth: Cancer is not just a health issue. It has wide-reaching social, economic, development, and human rights implications.
Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries. Truth: Cancer is a global epidemic. It affects all ages and socio-economic groups, with developing countries bearing a disproportionate burden.
Myth 3: Cancer is a death sentence. Truth: Many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and for many more people, their cancer can be treated effectively.
Myth 4: Cancer is my fate. Truth: With the right strategies, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented.
As WHO stated in 1999, tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals including 43 carcinogens. Smoking and tobacco use are the most common causes of cancer. Public health experts claimed and also various researches revealed that more than 30 per cent of cancers occurred for smoking or tobacco use. Lung cancer and oral cancer is most common for smoking and tobacco use.
Some other cancers also occur due to smoking or tobacco use. According to the American Cancer Society cancer fact and figures 2011, ‘besides lung cancer, tobacco use also increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, lips, nasal cavity (nose) and sinuses, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), oesophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary, and acute myeloid leukaemia.’
Even passive smoking causes lung cancer, many children and women die of cancer from passive smoking. By the WHO findings, about 6 lakh people died in 2010 for passive smoking, most of them of lung cancer. Tobacco use or smoking also causes some common non-communicable diseases such as stroke, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, etc.
In Bangladesh, there is no current data about tobacco-related cancer or tobacco-related disease. The WHO stated in 2004 that about 1.2 million are facing eight serious NCDs due to tobacco use (including smoking). Among them, 382,000 lost physical activeness and became disabled while 57,000 died of tobacco-related diseases.
In addition to tobacco use, there some other common factors that cause cancer such as alcohol/drug use, obesity and physical inactivity, eating soft drinks/cold drinks and fast food, air pollution, low fresh fruit and vegetable intake and sexually transmitted infection. So we need to be careful about unhealthy diet and high-risk behaviour. By avoiding unhealthy diet, tobacco and drugs (alcohol and other drugs) addiction, coupled with healthy diet (including fresh fruits and vegetables) and physical exercise, could reduce risk of cancer.
We need some policy changes to reduce the risks of cancer. We need strong policies to control unhealthy food (fast food, energy-soft drinks-chemical juices) including ban on their advertisements. We need to ensure healthy diet and food for everyone. We need to strictly control all kind of drugs, and taxes on unhealthy diet and tobacco. The exiting tobacco control law also should be amended by parliament as its final draft has already been approved by the cabinet.
Aminul Islam Sujon is project coordinator for the WBB Trust.
This article is published at National English Daily, named The New Age and this article was top most ranked at New Age on 4 February 2013 and link is http://newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2013-02-04&nid=38934#.URow-....
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