“I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther”– Legacy by Rupi Kaur
Scientists before us have done tremendous work in the field of research. We now have a better understanding of the human body and the complex interactions between genetics and environmental factors that increase the risk of developing cancer. Unlike cancer in adults, most childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle or environmental factors. Generally speaking, childhood cancer cannot be prevented or screened for. While we may not be able to prevent cancer in our children, we have an opportunity to offer them the next best thing. We can greatly shape and change their risk of cancer in adulthood. It is possible for today’s children to experience lower cancer rates as adults compared with previous generations.
As the genes that lead to cancer have become better understood, so too has the importance of the interaction between genes and the environment in cancer development. There are several recognizable factors that contribute to different types of cancer including tobacco exposure, infections from certain viruses, exposure to UV radiation, exposure to carcinogens in food and also certain medical conditions. Science has also identified other factors that lower the risks for some types of cancer. Emerging evidence also speaks to the benefits of sleep in inhibiting cancer growth.
Applying what we learn about gene-environment interactions to preventive interventions is key in developing strategies for prevention. There is an important distinction between individual and population-based strategies. High-risk individuals with predictive genetic markers can be identified and selected for preventative activities. Population-based strategies seek to translate science into understanding and thus cultivate personal and community engagement to promote a shared goal of health.
How do we translate science into public action? What can we do now, and how can we do it? Approaches to cancer prevention include harm reduction (reducing exposure to known causes of cancer), clinical interventions (vaccines, chemoprevention), and health promotion (promoting behaviours that are associated with reduced cancer risk). Such efforts require collaboration between clinical providers, community organizations and local public health agencies.
Dr. Zanele Balang is a registered Paediatrician at Doctors Hospital.Read More
Dr. Zanele BalangPaediatrician