National Cancer Centre of Belarus
Prevention is measures aimed at prevention of cancer developing. The purpose of such measures to decrease the risk of developing the disease in a specific person or a group of persons. Prevention in medicine is usually based on the search for the disease causes, and protection methods against these causes. Unfortunately, in oncology there is no complete understanding of cancer development causes; however a sufficient number of observations is available allowing to specify the so called ”risk factors” of developing malignant tumors and offer certain recommendations making it possible to decrease this risk.
A risk factor is a specific sign such as a human habit for example: (smoking, harmful environmental factors, ultraviolet radiation, chemical carcinogenic substances), resulting in an increase developing human malignant tumors. This relationship is only one of possible causes of developing cancer, For this reason, it should be distinguished from the cause factor.
As far as cancer is a whole group of disease different in their course and prognosis. There are specific risk factors of their own, different from risk factors of other cancer forms for each type of malignant tumors. In 1981 English scientists R. Doll и R. Peto published a paper on the study of the main causes of malignant tumors in which they calculated the relative contribution of these causes to cancer mortality. The results of his work are presented in the table:
The proportion of deaths from cancer
Diet (excess of calories, animal fat, red meat and its processed)
products, unsufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables)
|Infections (chronic hepatitis, human papilloma virus)||10%|
|Reproductive health and sex hygiene||7%|
|Geophysical factors (excessive solar irradiation)||3%|
|Industrial waste products||1%|
|Drugs and medical procedures||1%|
According to the researchers' data, tobacco smoking is the most significant factor responsible for 25-30% of cancer death while the environmental pollution contributes 2% of only to cancer deaths. It suggests that most of malignant tumor cases can be prevented by relatively simple measures.
Based on the large scope of scientific information, individuals without specific genetic predisposition to cancer can be given 6 basic recommendations for cancer prevention. Recommendations for people with specific genetic predisposition to cancer are given below.
if you smoke you must stop it as soon as possible
Tobacco smoking is the most important factor of developing malignant tumors. Smoking is associated with developing different cancers, such as lung cancer, gastric cancer, laryngeal cancer, oral cavity cancer, urinary bladder cancer, renal cancer, cervix uteri cancer. Even person does not smoke but he/she stays in the same room with smokers (passive smoking), lung cancer risk is increased. Your determination to stop smoking is the most important health decision in your life If you have made this decision but you have difficulties in smoking cessation you need a doctor's counselling.
Eat healthy food
— Eat sufficient fruit and vegetables. Your diet should be based on vegetable food. Use no less than 400g (3 big cups) of fruit and vegetables a day, more of that use whole grains and beans.
—Limit the consumption of fat food. Try to eat more lenten food, limit the use of fat, especially animal fats.
—If you consume alcohol, drink, it reasonably. The risk of a number of malignant tumors including breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, renal cancer, and hepatic cancer is associated with alcohol. Men should consume no more than 2 drinks a day, women no more than 1 drink a day.
1 drink is 150 g of dry wine, or 0.33 l of beer, or 30 g of strong alcohol.
Keep normal weight, be engaged in some sort of physical activities
Overweight increases the risk of developing breast, prostate, lung, colon and renal cancers. Physical activity helps to keep normal weight and to extend life-span, to improve the quality of life and to decrease the risk of developing cancer. Be engaged in moderate physical activities no less than 30 min a day.
Protect yourself from solar irradiation
The most frequent kind of cancer is skin cancer. It is directly associated with solar irradiation. You should avoid the midday sun, stay in shadow, protect your skin with clothes, use a sunscreen, avoid solaria and quartz lamps.
Several kinds of cancer can be provoked by viral infections. Hepatitis B increase the risk of developing hepatic cancer. Vaccination against hepatitis B protects from this infection and risk of hepatic cancer. Papillomavirus can provoke uterine cervix cancer. Vaccination against HPV before the onset of sexual activily can considerably decrease the risk of cervical cancer.
Be responsible for your behavior
Avoid irresponsible actions. Practice safe sexual behavior (limited number of sexual partners, using condoms). Be serious about screening of malignant tumors (periodic mammography, cytology of uterine cervix, colonoscopy).
Unfortunately, despite the great hopes for preventive effect of antioxidants, various vitamins and nutritional supplements, clinical trials have not demonstrated theirs efficacy. Moreover, in some cases, these substances can be harmful for human body. A number of hormonal drugs are proposed for preventing of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Despite the promising results of the studies, discussions about the need in wide use of these drugs are underway. Their high cost, the need for long-term intake, the risk of side effects, make administration of the cases medicines baseless.
A small number of patients (7.5% of all cancer cases) have a genetic predisposition to the development of tumors. This means that the genes of these people have some mutation significantly increasing the probability of developing tumor which is usually inherited. The course of such cases of malignant tumors is in the inheritable (familiar) form; they develop in the middle age. The hereditary forms of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer are well known. As a rule genetic predisposition to malignant tumors can be suspected if the patient has two or more first or second degree relatives who suffered from cancer. Special genetic studies are needed for more accurate diagnostics.
In case of mutation in certain genes, cancer risk may be so significant that preventive surgical removal of the organ may be indicative. An alternative of such patients is thorough monitoring .
If several generations of you family had to the management repeated cases of malignant tumors or you have several first or second degree relatives suffering from breast cancer, ovarian or colon cancer, you can adresses the specialists of our Centre for consultation and undergoing special tests.