What do you think your risks for cancer are?
Do you have a family history of cancer, or have you been exposed to carcinogens? How about your diet and exercise patterns? What can you do to reduce your risks? (radioisotopes), and UV rays from the sun. Most physicians and dentists are quite aware of the risk of radiation, and successful efforts have been made to reduce the amount of radiation needed for mammography, dental X-rays, and other necessary medical X-rays.
Microbes About 15-20% of the world’s cancers are caused by microbes, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, although the percentage is much lower in developed countries such as the United States. Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are known to cause oropharyngeal cancer, cervical cancer, and other cancers, and the Helico-bacterpylori bacterium has been definitively linked to stomach cancer.
The Epstein-Barr virus, best known for causing mononucleosis, is also suspected of contributing to Hodgkin’s disease, cancer of the nasopharynx, and some stomach cancers. Human herpesvirus 8 has been linked to Kaposi’s sarcoma and certain types of lymphoma. Hepatitis viruses B and C together cause as many as 80% of the world’s liver
DETECTING AND TREATING CANCER
Early cancer detection often depends on our willingness to be aware of changes in our own body and making sure we keep up with recommended diagnostic tests.
What do you think your risks for cancer are? Photo Gallery
Unlike those of some other diseases, early signs of cancer are usually not apparent to anyone but the person who has them. Even pain is not a reliable guide to early detection, because the initial stages of cancer may be painless. Self-monitoring
Plaving the Odds
How far should we go to prevent potential cancers? Breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 made the headlines in spring 2013 when actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventive double mastectomy. After her mother struggled with ovarian and breast cancer for eight years until her death, Jolie learned that she harbored the same genetic minefield. Her 87% risk for breast cancer and 50% risk for ovarian cancer persuaded her to undergo surgery to remove and then reconstruct her breasts.
The reaction was mixed: some applauded Jolie’s encouragement for women to be aware of genetic testing and their options for preventive, informed actions; others pointed out that worried women might pursue mastectomies that were medically unnecessary. Following Jolie’s announcement in The New York Times, cancer and genetic testing centers reported five times the number of calls they usually receive in a week related to genetic testing.
But having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene is rare only 5-10% of breast cancers and 10-15% of ovarian cancers result from this mutation among white women in the United States (data on other ethnicities is so far incomplete). Most women are advised not to opt for such extreme preventive surgery. Even if you have a mutation that suggests that you will ultimately get breast or ovarian cancer, other preventive measures are available, including several medications.
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