Cancer is the second leading cause of death around the world, with about 1 in 6 deaths being due to cancer. It’s no different in Singapore, whereby it’s estimated that 15 people die from cancer every day. Fortunately, with early cancer diagnosis and treatment, the outcomes of cancer management are significantly improved. Because of early detection, some cancer patients are able to be cured of the disease and go on to have an average life expectancy.
While there isn’t a single exact cause for cancer, scientists believe that cancer occurs due to an interaction of factors that increase your chances of developing cancer – which may be genetic or environmental. Although you can’t completely eliminate your risk of developing cancer, it’s important to take note of factors that may increase this risk.
With that being said, here are 4 factors that contribute to your risk of developing cancer.
1. Your family history
Some forms of cancer, such as breast and colorectal cancer, tend to be hereditary. If a particular type of cancer runs in in your family, you may have genetic mutations that put you at a higher risk of getting this cancer. However, being born with an inherited genetic mutation doesn’t confirm that you will have cancer in your lifetime. Approximately only five to ten percent of cancers are clearly attributed to inherited genetic mutations.
If you have a family history of cancer, speak to your doctor about it. Your doctor may recommend genetic testing to assess your risk or more frequent cancer screening tests to detect any abnormalities early.
There is credible evidence that dietary factors contribute to developing cancer. A diet that’s high in fat and salt is shown to increased rates of colon, breast, uterus and prostate cancer. Being overweight is also linked to increasing your risk of developing certain cancers significantly.
A Singaporean study has found that regardless of gender, being overweight increases your cancer risk by one and a half times. On the other hand, eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can possibly help to protect against certain types of cancer.
Tobacco products contain over 69 carcinogens, which are agents that are known to cause cancer. Smoking tobacco or being regularly exposed to tobacco smoke causes up to one-third of all deaths related to cancer. Smoking increases your chances of developing cancers such as oral, lung, stomach, bladder and kidney cancer. Studies have shown that smoking just one to four cigarettes daily can increase this risk.
Secondhand smoke is equally as damaging. Upon lighting a cigarette, about 90 percent of its smoke is released into the air as secondhand smoke. Even if you don’t smoke, regularly breathing in secondhand smoke increases your risk of lung cancer by 30%. Smoking is one of the most preventable ways to protect yourself against cancer. If you smoke, consider cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke every day and eventually kicking the habit completely.
4. Sun and UV exposure
Although it may be appealing to step outside and get yourself a tanned, golden complexion, spending too much time under the sun can pose a serious health risk. Frequent exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can permanently harm your skin and increase your chances of developing skin cancer. Exposure to UV rays can happen through natural sources like the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds.
Having fair skin also puts you at a higher risk of skin cancer than someone who has a deeper skin tone. This is due to fair skin having less melanin, a pigment which acts as a protection against UV rays. Singapore has one of the greatest UV exposure rates worldwide. Thus, it’s important to apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 on the exposed parts of your body before stepping out. If possible, avoid being under the sun between 11 am and 3 pm, as UV radiation reaches extreme levels during this period.
Being aware of your risks of developing cancer is crucial to making lifestyle changes that can help to protect yourself against this dreadful disease. To take control of your health, visit our cancer treatment centre in Singapore to assess your cancer risks with our oncology specialist!