Harm reduction should be adopted as a way of preventing cancer

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Eating healthy, switching to lesser harmful alternatives are all ways to reduce harm

New Delhi, 8th January 2019: Actor-filmmaker Rakesh Roshan is the most recent of several celebrities to have become a victim to cancer. He has been diagnosed with throat cancer (squamous cell carcinoma of the throat).

Statistics indicate that smokers are up to 25 times more likely to develop a cancer of the throat than their non-smoking counterparts. However, passive smoking, tobacco chewing, and cigar smoking are also risk factors.

Another risk factor is excessive use of alcohol and infection with Human papilloma Virus, a virus also linked with cervical cancer in the women.

Throat cancer or squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil is a part of cancers of the head and neck. In oncology, squamous cell cancers of the head and neck are often considered together because they share many similarities – in incidence, cancer type, predisposing factors, pathological features, treatment of the cancer and cancer prognosis. Up to 30% of cancer patients with one primary head and neck tumor will have a second primary malignancy.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Although people with certain habits such as smoking, drinking, unhealthy lifestyle, etc. are more at risk of acquiring health conditions such as cancer, others may also be susceptible. The prevalence of cancer in our country is not uniform all over. There is a difference in the types of cancer that affect people basis rural and urban settings. We have seen that in rural women, cervical cancer is the most widespread while in urban women, breast cancer is the most rampant. In case of men, rural people are majorly affected by cancers of the oral cavity while rural men are greatly inflicted by cancer of the lung. In India, tobacco causes 90% of cancers.”

Some signs and symptoms of throat cancer may include a cough; changes in your voice, such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly; difficulty swallowing; ear pain; a lump or sore that doesn’t heal; a sore throat; and Weight loss.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Given the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer in India, there is a need to give focus on harm reduction strategies. Harm reduction is a public health strategy, which aims to mitigate the dangers or harms associated with an action or condition. For instance, in those who cannot quit combustible smoking or drinking altogether, one can switch to lesser harmful options like honey wine or faster acting only nicotine based replacement therapies to mitigate the effects. The emphasis here is not on the use itself, but on the negative outcomes of use.”

Here are some ways in which one can diagnose and prevent the onset of cancer at an early stage.

  • Pay attention to symptoms and get yourself checked regularly.
  • Using any type of tobacco puts a person at an increased risk of cancer. Avoiding or stopping the consumption of tobacco is one of the foremost steps in cancer prevention. Those who cannot stop must switch to safer alternatives.
  • Filter tap water properly as this can reduce your exposure to possible carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals.
  • Get vaccinated on time and as per schedule. For example, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and several other kinds of cancer.
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids can help in reducing the risk of bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of cancer-causing agents in urine and helping to flush them through the bladder faster.

·       Most importantly, make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants which can help ward off diseases.