It’s beautiful news. The cancer death rate in the United States has seen a steady decline for nearly two decades, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS) in its latest Cancer Statistics, 2014 report. With news like this, we can rejoice. From advances in the treatment of cancer to the research being conducted to eradicate the disease on the molecular level, Americans can finally get to a place where we don’t have to think about this ugly disease as much as we do, right? Not so fast. Here’s why YOU and everyone you love must remain vigilant about your health, so that cancer death rates can continue their decline.
The recent ACS report also predicts some 1.6 million new cancer cases and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths in the United States in 2014. I don’t mean to burst any bubbles after the great news about dropping cancer death rates, but as you can see, many people will be forced to add the word “cancer” to their vocabularies this year. And too great a number of those who have it will die. But hope is not lost. Even by reading this article and others like it, you’re thinking about your cancer risk and that of your loved ones. That makes a difference.
While it is important to be “in the know” about all of the high-risk cancers that can affect the human body, as a physician who specializes in the treatment of those that affect the urological system, I am highlighting them in this article.
Prostate cancer tops the list of predicted cancer diagnoses for men this year and about 10 percent of those who have it will die from the disease. While prostate cancer remains the most common cancer in men, when detected and treated early, it can be cured. Here’s what you should know:
Age – As a man ages, his risk of developing prostate cancer increases.
Family History – Having one first-degree relative (father or brother) who has had prostate cancer increases a man’s risk of developing the disease by two-fold.
Ethnicity – African American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer, while Asian American men have the lowest risk.
Hormones – Prolonged exposure to testosterone is believed to be associated with prostate cancer development. Advise the men in your life not to use those Low-T boosters if they haven’t carefully consulted with a physician first.
While much debate has circulated in recent years over the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, it is the perspective of the American Urological Association and this physician that this test saves lives, period. If the man or men in your life have put off this test, encourage them to see their doctor and have it done. It could mean the difference between catching a cancer early and catching it too late.
For men and women alike, cancers of the kidneys and renal pelvis have a combined predicted diagnosis this year of approximately eight percent. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Well, that’s nearly 64,000 people diagnosed with a cancer that in some cases, can be preventable. Here’s what to watch for:
Smoking – This is a significant lifestyle risk factor for kidney cancer as the chemicals found in nicotine are treated as waste by the body and are filtered through the kidneys, which can cause significant damage.
Obesity – Hormonal changes can occur in the body when the proportion of a person’s body weight is higher than normal. These changes are associated with development of several types of cancer, including kidney.
High Blood Pressure – Studies have shown that kidney cancer risk is higher in people who have high blood pressure.
Environmental Exposure – Frequent exposure to chemicals like asbestos, cadmium, some herbicides and organic solvents have been link to an increased risk of developing kidney cancer.
Heredity – There is risk of developing kidney cancer in those who have a strong family history of the disease, especially a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with it.
As you can see by this list, there is plenty of kidney and renal cancer risk factors that can be controlled 100 percent by YOU. Not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and limiting exposure to certain environmental toxins can all help you reduce your risk.
It’s easy when we talk about cancer numbers and statistics to simply get wrapped up in the “math” of it all. And while we should absolutely celebrate the fact that the cancer death rate in this country continues to decline, we must also remain committed to keeping it that way. After all, when one of those “statistics” is you or a loved one, the reality of those numbers hits home. But with routine medical care and reducing the lifestyle factors that put you at a higher cancer risk, you’ll be doing all you can, while you can, to avoid becoming a statistic.