World Cancer Day: Focus on Risk Factors

World Cancer Day: Focus on Risk Factors

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that approximately 70% of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries, most of which can be found in Africa and Asia.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases in 2012, with the number of new cases expected to rise by about 70% over the next two decades.

There is no denial that Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally being responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly one in six deaths is due to cancer.

Thus, on the event of the World Cancer Day under the tagline ‘We can. I can’; 2016-2018, the Centre for Communication Programs Nigeria (CCPN) joins other global voices to raise awareness by highlighting the risk factors, types and causes of cancer.
Worthy of mention is that Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. It also has the ability to spread throughout the body.

Research has proven that when cancer begins, it produces no symptoms. The Signs and symptoms only appear as the mass grows or ulcerates. The findings that result depend on the cancer’s type and location. Few symptoms, however, are specific. Many frequently occur in individuals who have other conditions. Cancer is a “great imitator”.

Hence, it is common for people diagnosed with cancer to have been treated for other diseases, which were hypothesized to be causing their symptoms.

Cancer can take decades to develop. That’s why most people diagnosed with cancer are usually 65 years of age or older. While it’s more common in older adults, cancer isn’t exclusively an adult disease — cancer can be diagnosed at any age.

People may become anxious or depressed post-diagnosis. The risk of suicide in people with cancer is approximately double.

Risk factorsCancer risk factors

Tobacco (Cigarette) use

Family History

Alcohol use


Unhealthy diet

Physical inactivity, etc.


These are major cancer risk factors worldwide and among the ones above are also the 4 shared risk factors for other noncommunicable diseases.

Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer and have major relevance in low- and middle-income countries.

Approximately 15% of cancers diagnosed in 2012 were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Helicobacter pylori, Human papillomavirus (HPV), Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus3.

Hepatitis B and C virus and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.

Reducing the cancer burden
Between 30–50% of cancers can currently be prevented. This can be accomplished by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies.

The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of cancer and management of patients who develop cancer. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.



Signs and symptoms caused by cancer will vary depending on what part of the body is affected.

Some general signs and symptoms associated with, but not specific to, cancer, include:

• Fatigue
• Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
• Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
• Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
• Changes in bowel or bladder habits
• Persistent cough or trouble breathing
• Difficulty swallowing
• Hoarseness
• Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
• Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
• Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
• Unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Types of Cancer

Bladder cancer risk factors include smoking, genetic mutations, and exposure to certain chemicals.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are available.


Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are 50 years old or older, get screened now.

Gallbladder cancer, a rare form of cancer, is one of the few cancers more common among women than men.

Five main types of cancer affect a woman’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. As a group, they are referred to as gynecologic cancers.

Head and Neck
Cancers of the head and neck include cancers that start in several places in the head and throat, not including brain cancers or cancers of the eye.

Smoking is the most important risk factor for kidney and renal pelvis cancers. To lower your risk, don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Be very careful if you work with the chemical trichloroethylene.

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets). Leukemia is the most common kind of cancer among children and teens.

To lower your risk for liver cancer, get vaccinated against Hepatitis B, get tested for Hepatitis C, and avoid drinking too much alcohol.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States. The most important thing you can do to lower your lung cancer risk is to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.

The two main kinds of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads in an orderly manner from one group of lymph nodes to another; and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads through the lymphatic system in a non-orderly manner.

Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells. In myeloma, the cells grow too much, forming a mass or tumor that is located in the bone marrow.

About 70% of cancers in the oropharynx (which includes the tonsils, soft palate, and base of the tongue) are linked to human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus.

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. But when ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment works best.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Most prostate cancers grow slowly, and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. Learn more and talk to your doctor before you decide to get tested or treated for prostate cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. To lower your skin cancer risk, protect your skin from the sun and avoid indoor tanning.

To lower the risk of thyroid cancer, avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, including radiation from medical imaging procedures, especially in young children, and especially around the head and neck.

Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the United States and the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer.

Vaginal and vulvar
Vaginal and vulvar cancers are rare, but all women are at risk for these cancers.