With the number of people diagnosed with cancer expected to rise drastically- we ask the question, are we taking the risks seriously enough? Liberty Magee investigates.
We’re taught from a young age what is right and wrong when it comes to our health. Don’t smoke, exercise often, eat healthy, the list goes on. And unless we are perfect- not many people can honestly say they stick to these endless rules.
You’ve probably heard people using the phrase “everything gives you cancer these days” plenty of times, but is this just a way for us to justify our poor health choices? Despite excessive walks, runs, cake sales, concerts, our great fundraising efforts have failed to put an end to one of our most dangerous and daunting house hold names.
As with most things- we can usually find the answers online. If you type into google ‘what causes cancer?’ hundreds of pages filled with both obvious and bizarre potential causes will flood your screen.
One of the more common issues we are warned about can be found in most of our high streets and shopping centres. The often visually pleasing and welcoming shops can have a much darker reality.
Sunbed and tanning shops are becoming increasingly popular throughout the UK. Sunbeds give out ultraviolet lights that can often be harmful- especially when excessively used. The rays can damage your skin and the DNA in your skin cells, over time this can cause skin cancer.
Tanning beds have become a progressively popular way to create a more ‘natural glow’ rather than fake tan from a bottle.
A lot of sunbed users believe that this can actually be a healthy alternative to going on holiday and getting burnt but studies found that these strong UV lamps are no safer than sun tanning.
19 year-old Alex Dewey from Rochester is a regular user of sunbeds.
“I use them at least twice a week, obviously more when the summer is coming up and I want to prepare for that.
I’ve always got really burnt in the sun but since using sunbeds my skin has got used to it.
I don’t care about the risks too much as I don’t use them every single day.”
Despite putting some restrictions on the use of sun beds- such as maximum minutes per week and over-18 use only, the use of sunbeds are only rising in the UK.
People need to start considering whether the ‘natural tan’ is worth it and how we can safely enjoy the sun. Using a strong sunscreen and regularly reapplying, covering up and spending time in the shade is the key to reducing the skin cancer risks.
One of the most common cancer risks that people are warned about is of course smoking. This leading cause of cancer isn’t just for those smoking- but also people around the smoke, also known as second hand smokers. Smoking produces chemicals that can damage DNA and this is what can potentially cause the cancer.
Smoking can cause many different types of cancer, including- lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
As many smokers know, any doctor, health expert or even the packaging on the packet of fags are always encouraging you to quit. But the Cancer Research website reports that 19% of adults still currently smoke.
Tiler Nathan Gambril, 23, from Chatham has been smoking for five years.
“I’ve been smoking since I was 17 at school. I can’t really remember why I started but all of my friends smoked.
I’ve always had problems with my lungs and smoking has only made that worse.
Usually I spend about £70 a week on fags- sometimes more.
Yes I do worry about the cancer risks- especially as I drink regularly and don’t have the best diet. Every January I try and make it my new years resolution but it hasn’t stuck yet.”
Sam Smith, Behavioural Scientist from University of Leeds is currently focusing on the prevention of breast cancer in high risks groups.
Smith, who recently appeared on BBC Breakfast discussing his study said,
“I think people have a lot to deal with and a lot of warnings about health. It can be difficult not to become overloaded. Changing your behaviour- such as stopping smoking, losing weight, using preventive medications, is really hard and people need a lot of support to help them make that decision and stick to it. It shouldn’t be about us blaming individuals for their actions; rather we should be designing environments that support healthy behaviours.”
Some people struggle to keep up with the never ending list on things that could potentially cause cancer. The media warns us that unexpected things such as the chemicals from painting and the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from your mobile phone and even oral sex can be putting you at risk.
Cancer very much used to be an upsetting subject that people didn’t really like talking about, but slowly that is changing. The subject is regularly popping up in mainstream media at the moment. Films such as The Fault in Our Stars, My Sister’s Keeper, 50/50 and many more directly tackle the disease and add some Hollywood glamour to it.
This week, Netflix have released a highly-anticipated series called Life Sentence featuring the character of Stella who finds out her terminal cancer has been cured and learning to live in her ‘post-cancer’ world. Having such a heavily promoted series purely centred around the disease in a more light-hearted scenario is bringing the sickness into the lime light.
Gastroenterology pathway coordinator at Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre Kieron Swan, 22, agrees that we could do better in preventing cancer cases.
“At the Will Adams centre one aspect of what we do is investigate patients for potential illnesses- including cancer. This can be done through endoscopes at the centre.
I agree that people aren’t taking cancer risks seriously enough. Many of the patients that come in admit to regularly taking risks not thinking it will affect them.”
Similar to all over the UK, there’s plenty to do for Cancer research and awareness in Canterbury. Annual breast cancer awareness event Race For Life comes to nearby seaside town Herne Bay on the 24th June, as well as Walk for Bladder Cancer Canterbury on the 20th May.
Whether we think there are too many precautions or not enough, the statistics do not lie. Macmillian cancer charity report that it is estimated there will be 4 million people in the UK living with cancer by 2030.
The big ‘C’ word makes a lot of people nervous and people don’t want to talk about it, but that is exactly what we need to do. The more we discuss cancer, cancer risks and and cancer preventions the more we can fight one of the 21st Century’s most deadly and heart breaking diseases.
Ironically one of our most serious modern day diseases isn’t being taken seriously enough.