Earlier this week, on Tuesday 4 February, we recognized World Cancer Day 2014. The campaign was focused on reducing the stigma surrounding the disease, and to dispel the myths that are associated with cancer. It was also an opportunity for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a special initiative of the World Health Organization, to release a book entitled World Cancer Report 2014.
Myth 1: Nothing can be done about cancer. Fact: With early diagnosis, many cancers can be successfully treated. Myth 2: You cannot control your risk of getting cancer. Fact: Awareness, lifestyle and dietary changes can reduce the risk. Myth 3: Smoking a couple of cigarettes a day will not cause cancer. Fact: Smoking is by far the greatest contributor to cancer worldwide. Myth 4: Frequent use of deodorants and hair dyes can cause cancer. Fact: There is no scientific evidence that these things cause cancer.
Myth 5: You have nothing to worry about if no one in your family has ever had cancer. Fact: Only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are inherited through genes. Myth 6: With daily use of sunscreen you can prevent skin cancer. Fact: While sunscreens can reduce your exposure to ultraviolet radiation, they cannot eliminate the risk. Myth 7: Incessant use of a mobile phone can cause brain cancer. Fact: No link has yet been established. Myth 8: Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are worse than the disease itself. Fact: While these modalities do have side effects, recent advances have made treatment tolerable.
The World Cancer Report 2014 provides a multidisciplinary assessment of the disease, including geographic distribution, biology, aetiology, prevention and treatment. Edited by Bernard Stewart from Australia and Christopher Wild, director of IARC, the book identifies the major sources of preventable cancer: smoking; infections; alcohol; obesity; inactivity; radiation; air pollution; and, for women, not breastfeeding. According to Stewart, prevention has a “crucial role in combating the tidal wave of cancer which we see coming across the world.” Currently there are 14 million people a year diagnosed with cancer but that number is predicted to increase to 19 million by 2025 and 24 million by 2035.
Wild said it was clear “the world would never treat its way out of cancer” but he was nevertheless optimistic about the progress since the 1950s, concluding “this knowledge provides huge potential, and therefore prevention must be writ large if we are to defy the dark prediction of the statistics.”