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Dr. Folashade Alli: How to Lower Your Risk of Cancer

Cancer is used to describe a collection of diseases in which abnormal cells in the body divide uncontrollably, negatively affecting and spreading to other tissues and parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

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Normally, the human cells grow and divide to form new ones as we need them. Old or damaged ones die, and new ones take their place. Cancer is used to describe a collection of diseases in which abnormal cells in the body divide uncontrollably, negatively affecting and spreading to other tissues and parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Where does it start?
Cancer can start almost anywhere in the body which is made up of trillions of cells.

What happens?
The normal process of cell breakdown is disrupted. Old or damaged cells survive instead of dying, and new ones form when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide uncontrollably and may form what is called a tumor. Cancers of the blood, e.g. leukaemia, do not form solid tumors (masses of tissue). Also, as tumors grow, cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body to form new tumors far from the original tumor.

How/why does it happen?
Cancer is generally a genetic disease caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells normally function.

It can be inherited from parents or arise as a result of errors that occur as cells grow and divide or caused by damage to DNA by certain environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke, radiation, ultraviolet rays from the sun, etc.

Types of cancer
There are over 100 types, most of which are named after the organ or tissue where the cancers form. For example, breast, lung, pancreatic, brain, eye, throat, colorectal (colon), and so on.

Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Diet
  • Immunosuppressive medicines after organ transplant
  • Hormones
  • Obesity & physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Radiation
  • Sunlight & other environmental risk factors
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Cancer-causing substances

Prevention
The following are actions you can take to lower your risk of developing cancer.

  • Key Lifestyle Changes
    • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
    • Protect your skin by applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing such as sunglasses and hats
    • Maintain a healthy weight because obesity can increase ones risk of developing cancers such as endometrial (uterine), breast in postmenopausal women and colorectal cancer
    • Get tested for hepatitis C
    • Limit alcohol intake
  • Screening Tests

It is important to check the body for cancer before one develops it. Treatment works best with cancers that are detected early enough, and can, in most cases, reduce the chances of dying from that cancer.

Dr. Folasade Alli is a Cardiologist who has over 30 years of experience in the field. She is a member of the Society for Quality in Healthcare in Nigeria (SQHN), a Fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, an International Associate Member of the American College of Cardiology, and so on.Her clinical practice comprises of 16 years at top management level in Lagoon Hospitals where she was the Head Consultant Cardiologist and Specialist Physician, and the Head of Internal Medicine, the Health Assessment Clinic, and the Clinical Research Unit.She currently manages Lagos Executive Cardiovascular Clinic with a team of multi-specialists including a paediatric cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, family physician, general surgeon, two neurosurgeons and neurologists, nephrologist, anaesthetist, paediatrician, orthopaedic surgeon, a laboratory scientist, radiologist and radiographer, specialist and registered nurses, and 2 GPs.Read some of her work HERE.

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