When you consider that some of the earliest evidence of cancer was found in mummies in ancient Egypt, it’s understandable that the fight against cancer can seem daunting. It’s been around for a very long time. However, in the later half of the twentieth century modern technology helped scientists make great strides in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, underscoring why supporting cancer research is so important.
In fact, the overall cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today. That’s thanks to the growth in knowledge about cancer biology, which in turn has led to:
- Better education about cancer prevention strategies and behavior, such as the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.
- Improved technology for regular screening and earlier detection of cancer, such as mammography, MRI, prostate screening blood tests, colorectal cancer stool tests, genetic screening, etc.
- Increased variety and success of cancer treatment options, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, less-invasive and more targeted surgical treatments, etc.
Along with increased survival rates, however, cancer diagnoses have increased as well. According to the Canadian Cancer Society:
- 2 in 5 Canadians (44% of men and 43% of women) are expected to develop cancer during their lifetime.
- About 1 out of 4 Canadians (26% of men and 22% of women) is expected to die from cancer.
- Lung, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer are the top four most diagnosed cancers. These 4 cancers account for 46% of all new cancer cases.
HOW CAN CANCER BE PREVENTED?
We currently know quite a bit about cancer. We know that it develops when normal cells start to grow out of control and form new abnormal cells, usually as a result of damaged DNA. We know many causes for damaged DNA, but there is still much research to be done on effectively treating the many varieties of cancer.
However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent cancer. About 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented by:
- Live smoke-free – This is the most important way to reduce your risk of cancer.
- Enjoy the sun safely – Protect your skin and eyes.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat well.
- Move more, sit less – Not enough physical activity and too much sitting increases your cancer risk. Aim for 30 minutes of activity every day and take frequent, short breaks from sitting.
- Limit alcohol – Drinking any type or amount of alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer.
- Understand hormones – The birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy may increase your risk of cancer. Understand the risks and benefits.
- Get vaccinated – Some viruses cause cancer. Check with your doctor about whether a hepatitis B or HPV vaccine is a good idea for you.
- Get screened – For certain age or population groups, screening tests can help find breast (mammography), lung (CT), and colorectal (virtual colonoscopy) cancers before you’ve even noticed symptoms.
Canadian Cancer Society (2022) “Cancer statistics at a glance.” www.cancer.ca. Accessed October 24, 2022.
Harvard Medical School (2019) “Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health.” Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed October 24, 2022.
Statistics Canada (2019) “Changes in life expectancy by selected causes of death, 2017.” www.statcan.gc.ca. Accessed October 24, 2022.
Sudhakar, A. (2009) “History of Cancer, Ancient and Modern Treatment Methods.” Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy. Dec 1; 1(2): 1–4. Accessed October 24, 2022.