To start with, it is pertinent to place cancers in the perfect perspective. By means of definition, a cancer is a malignant tumour or swelling composed of cells capable of undergoing uncontrolled proliferation. Many erroneously hold the opinion that each lump or swelling is a cancer. However, this isn’t so.

Let’s see…

Unlike benign swellings, cancerous cells normally have the propensity to invade surrounding tissues and sometimes metastasize (break off and spread) to distant body tissues via the blood or lymph system. Cancers result if there’s a disruption to the normal process of cell division. Body cells are constantly undergoing cell division, albeit in a controlled way to replace aging and dead cells.

However, a fault or mutation sometimes happens during this procedure. If not immediately repaired by the body, this leads to the formation of abnormal cells that continue to proliferate uncontrollably and finally lead to cancer. Arguably, the health burden of cancer is monumental. Cancer is supposed to kill more people annually than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), by 2030, over 21 million new cases of cancer would have been diagnosed with 13 million people dying from cancer each year.

The numbers

Furthermore, statistics have shown that 80000 Nigerian women die from several types of cancer annually with breast cancer on peak of the list. Cigarette smoking, passive or active is implicated in the majority of cancers such as lung, nasopharyngeal, oesophageal and prostate cancers to mention a few. In reality, studies have shown that about 33 percent of annual cancer deaths in the USA result from smoking.

Approximately 98 percent of individuals with Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) have a substantial smoking history and luckily, cessation of smoking was correlated with improved survival in these patients. Compared with individuals of normal weight and Body Mass Index (BMI), obese people stand a greater chance of some cancer types such as cancers of the pancreas, colon, kidneys, oesophagus, breast and the endometrium amongst others.

Take into account

One explanation that has been suggested for this higher risk is that fat cells produce excessive amounts of oestrogen in obese folks. High oestrogen levels are linked with increased risk of breast and endometrial cancers. Furthermore, obese people are more likely to have elevated blood levels of insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) which favour the growth of some cancers. Studies have shown that overweight and obese people stand 200-400percent greater risk of endometrial cancer compared to their counterparts with a normal BMI.

Immunodeficient individuals such as people living with HIV/AIDS are at more risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. Three of those cancers namely Kaposi Sarcoma, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Cervical Cancer are Known as AIDS-defining illnesses. As an example, a person infected with HIV has many thousands higher chance of manifesting Kaposi Sarcoma and 70 times greater chance of developing Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Another cancer types they are in danger of comprise anal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer. Because HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system, it’s thought that it predisposes to a other ailments which may lead to cancer multiplying Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) disease that’s been implicated in cervical cancer. Studies have shown that excessive use of alcohol increases your risk of oral, throat, oesophageal and liver cancer. Consequently, if you stop excess drinking, your risk of these deadly cancers will be significantly less. Individuals that expose themselves to extreme sunlight inadvertently increase their risk of skin cancers. Numerous studies have implicated Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pathology of skin cancers, such as melanoma.


It is a natural skin pigment that provides substantial protection against ultraviolet rays. This is the reason why light-skinned men and women who have less melanin pigment in their skin are more likely to experience sunburn and skin cancer. For most cancers, people who have one or more close relatives (especially first-degree relatives) which were diagnosed with such cancers have a considerably greater risk.

Such men and women are said to be genetically predisposed since they might have inherited some of the abnormal genes. As an example, a family history of breast cancer at a first-degree relative is one of the important risk factors for this cancer. If a mother or sister is affected by breast cancer, the lifetime risk of developing the disease is increased by four folds. As individuals increase in age, their risk of developing cancers also tends to grow. For instance, while breast cancer is quite uncommon in women below 25 years, the incidence reaches a plateau in women aged 50-55 years. 65 years) and the incidence can be as large as 80% at 80 years old.