On 4th February of every year, the world celebrates World Cancer Day to raise awareness and promote healthy lifestyle habits to as many people as possible in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths from cancer, which last year reached 8.2 million worldwide.
Under the slogan “I can, we can”, World Cancer Day shines a light on the disease, helping to educate people about cancer’s effects and ways to prevent it, as well as offering support to those affected by it. The campaign also petitions governments, their communities and employees to unite their efforts to fight this disease.
On the 23 and 24 February in Souq Waqif
Mariam Al Nuaimi: “Qatar Cancer Society celebrates World Cancer Day”
Every year, Qatar Cancer Society celebrates World Cancer Day by launching awareness campaigns and digital campaigns to inform people of ways to prevent and treat the disease, as well as the factors and symptoms involved. The campaigns also emphasize the importance of regular screening for early diagnosis. Organized for the 23 and 24 February in the Western Arena at Souq Waqif, the event “In all Languages of the World, We Can,” will aim to reach and as many people as possible and provide information on cancer in simple and entertaining ways. The first day is aimed at students from 9am until 12pm, while on the second day, a number of embassies in Qatar will display folklore and heritage shows and demonstrations from 4pm till 8pm.
Ms. Mariam Hamad Al Nuaimi, Qatar Cancer Society’s General Manager, confirmed their continued effort in raising awareness of the disease, including early diagnosis, as the pillar of disease prevention. “QCS spares no effort in its cancer awareness message by launching campaigns in line with the global calendar for the disease, just like World Cancer Day.”
She added, “World Cancer Day aims to achieve a number of goals, like raising awareness of the disease and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for prevention, and shining a light on the health services on offer in Qatar for cancer patients. Through various events and activities, we want to promote hope and positivity in different segments of society and cancer patients. The campaigns also aim to teach the public the necessary skills to fight cancer and create a sense of community and support for cancer patients.”
Dr. Hadi Abu Rashid: “1466 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2015. Chronic inflammations, low immunity, and genetics are risk factors”
Dr. Hadi Abu Rashid, Health Coach at Qatar Cancer Society, stated early signs of the disease are many and varied, and included an increase in hoarseness of the voice or a persistent cough with blood or without; bleeding or unusual discharge from the breast, vagina or anus; a change in urination habits (bleeding) or change in bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation); difficulty swallowing; indigestion; itching in a beauty mark or a pimple with change in size and shape; a lump in the breast or testicular area or anywhere in the body; and poor wound healing.
He defined cancer as a growth of abnormal cells that can spread to any part of the body through the blood and lymph system. 1466 cases were diagnosed in 2015, according to the National Register of Qatari Cancer Statistics, Ministry of Public Health of the State of Qatar.
Dr. Rashid stated the risk factors for cancer are divided into internal factors, such as genetic factors, immune deficiency, and chronic inflammation, and external factors, which are linked to lifestyle and environment.
Cancer is not a genetic disease, so it is not passed on to children once a parent has been diagnosed. However, sometimes a person inherits genetic defects from his parents that make him/her more susceptible to the emergence of certain types of cancer. The inherited defects involve the genes that control cell proliferation or the genes responsible for DNA repair. But this doesn’t necessarily mean he/she will inevitably get cancer.
Immune deficiency disease is divided into two categories: inherited and acquired. While immune deficiency isn’t directly linked the development of tumors, it makes the body unable to resist certain types of viruses that then reproduce inside some cells and can be converted into cancerous cells.
Chronic Infections and Inflammations
Chronic inflammation is not considered a malignant disease, but it can increase the likelihood of the emergence of cancer in a patient, for example chronic inflammation of the intestines, kidney stones (gall, bladder).
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are over 40 items classified as occupational risk factors that facilitate the emergence of cancer, including:
- asbestos (lung cancer)
- aluminum, arsenic, iron manufacturing, pesticides, and coal mines (lung cancer)
- Oil refining, tar (skin cancer)
- Nickel, carpentry (wood dust), the shoe industry (sinus cancer)
- Oil refining, rubber industry, benzene (leukemia)
Heba Nassar: “Exercise and healthy food can prevent 30-40% of cancers.”
Heba Nassar, Health Educator at QCS, explained that positive lifestyle changes can reduce the chances of developing cancer, the most important being exercise and proper nutrition. A third of cancer cases are caused by obesity and lack of physical activity, and 30-40% of cancers can be prevented by following a healthy diet and exercise.
She stated, “Several studies have shown that the practice of physical activity on a regular basis reduces the risk of cancer, so it is advisable to walk for 30 minutes a day on a regular basis or an effort equivalent to it. Many studies demonstrate that the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of stomach, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and lung cancer. This is because fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of minerals, vitamins and fiber, which play an important role in maintaining balance within the cells, and ridding the body of toxins and carcinogens.
Heba Nassar emphasized that eating 120g of red meat a day increases the risk of large intestine and prostate cancers. Nutritionists advise avoiding excessive consumption of red meat and instead choosing poultry, fish and eggs. In addition, frying and grilling should be avoided as this direct exposure to heat creates higher amounts of carcinogens.
She also pointed out that the excessive consumption of salt leads to a marked increase in the incidence of two types of cancer: stomach and nasal cavity. She advised not consuming a lot of meat, salted fish, or dry salted nuts, and minimizing the amount of salt added to food, both during cooking or at the dining table.
Sunshine and Cancer
Dana Mansour, Health Educator at QCS, warned against exposure to high levels of ultraviolet radiation, which is one of the most dangerous cancer-causing factors. The public should avoid some of the habits that increase the risk, such as sun bathing, the use of tanning beds, or deliberate exposure to sunlight for a long time, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
She stressed the need to take precautions, such as wearing protective clothing; using sunscreen (applying it to clean and dry skin at least 20 minutes before going out and reapplying it every two hours); wearing wide brimmed hats to provide good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are the most common skin cancer places; seeking shade from the sun to avoid ultraviolet radiation reflected from nearby surfaces; and wearing sunglasses. She advised seeing your doctor for a yearly skin examination and checking with your doctor if you observe any unusual skin changes, if you have a wound that does not heal, or if a mole suddenly appears and there is a change in size or thickness, shape or color, or begins to bleed. The chances of recovery are high when a diagnosis is made early.
Tobacco and Alcohol
Rahaf Wasfe, Health Educator at QCS, said smoking is one of the highest factors leading to cancer that can be prevented and controlled. Every year, tobacco takes the lives of six million people around the world, and it kills half of those who use it. What’s more, second-hand smoking can increase the risk of lung, larynx and pharynx cancer in non-smokers. Studies have shown that the likelihood of developing lung cancer rises by 30% in women who do not smoke if the spouse is a smoker, and by 24% in people who are exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace .
She added, “Alcohol increases the risk of liver and esophageal cancer and upper respiratory tract (mouth, pharynx, larynx), breast and large intestine. The more is consumed, the higher the risk of cancer.”
She stressed the need to have all necessary vaccinations, and conducting tests for early detection of cancer on a regular basis.
Drugs that Cause Cancer
- Hormones: Scientific studies have concluded that the use of a type of estrogen called “second ethyl stelbestrol,” aimed at the prevention of abortion, leads to the emergence of vaginal and cervical cancer among adolescent women when their mothers took this hormone during pregnancy.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: its use is common in women when they reach menopause in order to combat the lack of female hormones and symptoms such as hot flushes, mental disorders and osteoporosis. But studies show that the use increases the risk of breast cancer more than one and half times.