Why Is Cancer Prevention Important?
Cancer incidences are increasing worldwide, posing a rapidly growing humanitarian and economic challenge. The World Health Organisation reported 8 million cancer-related deaths in 2012 and has predicted that this number will increase to 25 million cancer-related deaths per year by 2025. Although cancer therapies are improving they are also becoming increasingly expensive and as such, are creating uncertainties as to how patients, especially in developing countries, will be able to afford these treatments in the future. Increased identification of cancer risk factors and subsequent reduction in exposure to these risks such as cessation of smoking and vaccination against HPV has resulted in declining rates of some cancers. However, the rates of other cancers, such as breast, skin and testicular cancer, are on the rise. Screening programs have improved the early detection of certain cancer types, but adequate clinical management of premalignant and early-stage tumors remains a challenge. It is therefore of paramount importance to increase the amount of high-level research being conducted on cancer prevention.
What Is Cancer Prevention?
PRIMARY CANCER PREVENTION
Preventing cancer before it occurs by reducing our exposure to various risk factors is what is known as primary prevention. This includes avoiding certain environmental factors such tobacco smoke and excessive exposure to UV light, using alternatives to plastic bottles and following a healthy diet. Encapsulated in this is also assessing an individuals hormonal and genetic predisposition to particular cancers that can, for example, be heavily influenced by their gender and race.
SECONDARY CANCER PREVENTION
Secondary prevention refers to the early detection of a malignant or pre-malignant lesion and early treatment in order to prevent further progression and development of the cancer. Improving current screening technologies and discovering novel pre-malignant markers for detection is vital in our fight against cancer, as is the development of a beneficial treatment protocol. Developing personalised treatment strategies could also prove extremely helpful in both secondary and tertiary cancer prevention.
TERTIARY CANCER PREVENTION
Once a patient has the signs of a cancerous lesion, the prevention of further malignant developments and the improvement of the patients condition is known as tertiary prevention. One very important aspect of tertiary prevention is also the prevention of recurrent tumours after the initial lesion has been removed.