By Hitendra Patil
The advances in science and medicine have helped in increasing the age span of us, human beings. However, one of the drawbacks of increased lifespan is the high risk of cancer.
Longevity in term of better life expectancy means the person will be exposed to environmental causative factors like pollution, modern diet which contains excess of fat and junk food. As the elderly are exposed to the dangers in environment, the risk of cancer in them are high.
With regard to the cancers in specific age group, the most common cancer found in males aged 60 and above is prostrate cancer. The reason is increased hormonal exposure to testosterone.
In case of women, the common form of cancer is breast cancer in the age group of 50 and above. Now we find that with changing lifestyle and food habits, women in their early 50 are prone to breast cancer.
Blood cancer is most common in the 20 - 30 age group. One of the reason is genetic mutation which happens in early childhood and is also on account of hormones.
In the first and second decade — ages 1-10, 11-20, the most common cancer is blood cancer. It is genetic and not environmental. It can also manifest as a sporadic event in the third decade.
Any cancer in Stage 1 like throat cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer have very good chances of complete recovery.
I would recommend the government should intervene and ensure that beyond warnings issued on labels of cigarettes and alcohol (the two most common cancer causing agents), it would go to the extent of stopping production of both in the interest of public health.
On World Cancer Day, I would like unmarried girls in the age group of 13 — 21 to take cervical cancer vaccine. I am positive that more vaccines will be discovered in the future that can prevent different forms of cancer.
Dr Patil is a surgical oncologist who practices at Wockhard Hospitals, Mulund, Mumbai
(As told to Sulekha Nair)