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Precision Cancer Prevention: How to Keep Cancer at Bay? (B-2)

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Is the Situation Something New?

These probabilities of getting cancer as mentioned above are actually nothing new, rather these are consistent with the statistics recorded decades ago. An article published in 2015 in the British Journal of Cancer compared the risk of developing cancer in the course of history. It actually compared the risk of two groups of men and women born in 1930 and 1960 to find out the probabilities of developing cancer in their lifetime. They discovered that women born in 1930 had 36.7% lifetime chance of developing cancer but those born in 1960 had that chance increased to 47.5%. For men, the chance raised from 38.5% for those born in 1930s compared to 53.5% for those born in 1960s. The study concluded that for all adults under 65, the overall risk of developing cancer was more than 50% (11).

These increased risk probabilities sustained even after adjusting for a variety of confounding factors such as better diagnostic tools and longer lifespan. Likewise, considering all factors, the chance of developing cancer has increased for the following generations such as Millennials (generation y, born between 1980-1994) and Zoomers (generation z born between 1995-2012). A 2017 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates that people born after 1990 have twice the chance of developing colon cancer as a young adult and four times the chance of developing rectal cancer (12) compared to the previous generation. We are going to know the reasons for such increased risk as we go ahead.

How big is the Current problem?

In terms of new cases (incidence) that are diagnosing every year and death toll (mortality), the WHO report (2021) mentioned above reveals that the most common new cases of cancer in 2020 were: breast (2.26 million cases), lung (2.21 million cases), colon and rectum (1.93 million cases), prostate (1.41 million cases), skin (non-melanoma) (1.20 million cases) and stomach (1.09 million cases).

The most common causes of cancer death identified in 2020 were: lung (1.80 million deaths), colon and rectum (935,000 deaths), liver (830,000 deaths), stomach (769, 000 deaths), and breast (685,000 deaths).1

The incidence and prevalence (new and old cases together in a defined year) of any cancer are rising dramatically in the recent years. The intensity of getting cancer also increases with age, this is because our demography is shifting toward the right side, means, population is getting older and with that the body immune defence mechanism also getting weaker and weaker. This is one of the major reasons of gradually increasing incidence and prevalence of cancer cases.

What Have We Already Lost?

We have lost many of our dear ones, family members, relatives, celebrities, famous politicians, great philanthropists, noble laureates, successful entrepreneurs and the list goes on. Many of them worked hard and fought tooth and nail to make lives easy for others and once they achieved their goals, and began to celebrate the rewards of their life-long sacrifices, the tragic happened. Many of them were gone away too soon. Alas! they were actually being kidnapped from inside by cancer.

Marie Curie is the only person and woman to win a Nobel Prize in two sciences – physics (1903) and chemistry (1911). Her family is still unique in acquiring five Nobel prizes in their basket, but cancer brought the ends to her life too early.

Likewise, looking into the cause of deaths of celebrities from different art industries, there are a large number of artists who have lost their battles against cancer. Luckily, only a very few of them survived and were blessed with a second chance at life. Actors and actresses like Walt Disney, Paul Newman, Farrah Fawcett, Lyn Nofziger, George Low, Alan Rickman, Fred Rogers, Gilda Radner, Humphrey Bogart, Andy Kaufman, Stephen McQueen, Charles Laughton, Dennis Hopper – some from the list of many, were all succumbed to cancer.

Similarly, musicians David Bowie, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Frank Zappa and Frank Sinatra are again the names, whose tragic deaths from cancer shook the industry. The list does not end here. We lost legends like President Grover Cleveland, Ulysses Grant, Lyndon Johnson, and latest Ronald Reagan. Only fortunate was President Jimmy Carter who luckily survived and is alive till date enlightening the world with his great philanthropic works. However, the legendary Dr Seuss Geisel, Baseball star Babe Ruth Jr. - all had no luck and they had to submit their lives to the grip of cancer.

Literary Dying Words of Steve Jobs

Recently, an unofficial blog and social media post on the ‘dying words’ of Apple founder Steve Jobs who lost his life to a bad pancreatic cancer went viral. Although there are questions about the authenticity of the post, the content is worth reading as a literary work. Job Steve reportedly said, “I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In other eyes, my life is the essence of success, but aside from work, I have a little joy. And in the end, wealth is just a fact of life to which I am accustomed.”

Like any other rich person, when Steve was dying, his wealth could do nothing to save his life, and he died dissatisfied with his wealth. So, if we just work hard and go on gathering wealth to be happy but do not take care of our health, can we enjoy anything at the end of the day? Whereas a person in perfect health who gets hungry as usual can enjoy any simple food. Moreover, the same person who is both hungry and thirsty will enjoy a bunch of cold grapes much more than a person who is not hungry or thirsty. However, what is the value of most delicious and highly sophisticated foods bought from the best gourmet restaurant to one who is nauseating and just trying hard to get relieved by vomiting out what is burning inside his stomach. In such a state, the stomach accepts nothing how precious or delicious food you may put into his mouth.

So, the social media post goes on quoting Steve:

“At this moment, lying on the bed, sick and remembering all my life, I realize that all my recognition and wealth that I have is meaningless in the face of imminent death.” it goes on to say. “In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of god of death drawing closer …

Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth …but very closely related to health that is best of wealth as some sayings from any culture from any corner of the earth go.

Like many others, he realized that the most expensive bed in the world is the sick bed …from where the hard truth comes up: “You can hire someone to drive a car for you, make money for you — but you can not rent someone to carry the disease for you. Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost — Life.”

He goes on saying: “When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading — Book of Healthy Life.”

Many like Steve, bid with all their money at that time for health, for the sake of life but then, this is of no avail. What about visualizing the same scenario well ahead when there is enough time to choose some healthy practices and take certain initiatives. Intelligent people invest in health before they get sick. Are you one of them? (to be continued).

*Disclaimer: Although Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, the above-quoted essay released on social media in November 2015, and has not been confirmed by anyone close to the founder of Apple. I am referencing it here as a piece of literary work only.

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