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World Cancer Day, 4 February 2016. Five IARC experts explain how, together, we can prevent cancer.

Each year on 4 February, WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in promoting ways to reduce the global burden of cancer. The theme of the UICC campaign is “We can. I can.” Five IARC experts explain how, together, we can prevent cancer.

Dr Christopher P. Wild, IARC Director, Office of the Director – Cancer prevention

I′m hopeful we can reduce the burden of cancer. Why? Because already with the knowledge we do have about the causes, we could prevent around half of all cancers worldwide. Equally important, though, I′m also hopeful because this knowledge about what we can achieve through cancer prevention is also increasingly recognized by governments and decision-makers. And that combination means that we′re in a position where we can really start to translate our scientific knowledge into action in order to save lives worldwide.


Dr Joachim Schüz, Head of the Section of Environment and Radiation – Tobacco and alcohol

We can prevent a lot of cancers with successful tobacco control and alcohol control. Tobacco, or cigarette smoking, remains the major single cause of cancer, and it would be completely preventable. What we need is successful tobacco control, and this has to be on the individual level and also by policy-makers. So we have to educate people and tell them how to stop smoking, but at the same time we need smoke-free places and we need tax and price policies to help people reducing their smoking. The best would be not to start smoking, because once you have started it′s very difficult to stop because of the addictiveness of nicotine. For alcohol, there is no safe amount of drinking, and it doesn′t matter whether you drink beer or wine or hard liquor, but of course the risk increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. So our recommendation is: limit your intake of alcohol as good as you can.


Dr Isabelle Romieu, Former Head of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism – Diet and physical activity

You can reduce your risk of cancer by very simple and daily healthy habits. For example, walking 30 minutes per day and decreasing the time you are sitting during the day. It′s also important to have healthy dietary habits and choose fruit and vegetables and unprocessed cereal over beverages rich in sugar as well as food rich in sugar. And you should also consider decreasing alcohol consumption. We have evidence of the impact of those healthy habits that could decrease your risk of cancer by 20—30%, so it really makes a difference.


Dr Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, Special Advisor (Cancer Control) and Head of the Screening Group – Early detection of cancer

We can save lives by early detection of cancer, by participating in early detection programmes. Early detection of cancer helps in diagnosing cancers in very early stages, that is in stage 1, when the cancer is usually less than 2 centimetres in maximum diameter and it has not spread elsewhere in the body. Then, treatment is highly effective, safe, and simple, and one achieves very high cure rates. You can take advantage of early detection by participating in early detection programmes organized by governments, particularly for breast, cervix, and large bowel cancers, and by consulting your doctor for further information.


Dr Rolando Herrero, Head of the Section of Early Detection and Prevention – Vaccination and cancer

We can prevent many cancers with vaccines against infectious agents that are the cause of many of these cancers. One of the most important developments in the recent years is the availability of the human papillomavirus vaccine, which is able to prevent a large fraction of cervical cancers in addition to other cancers in the genital tract of both men and women, and cancer of the oropharynx. This virus is associated with approximately 250 000 deaths every year, and so by introducing vaccination, we can be able to prevent many of these cancers. The other vaccine that is available to prevent cancer is the vaccine against the hepatitis B virus, which is associated with liver cancer, which is an extremely common cancer also in many parts of Africa and South-East Asia. So by doing vaccination, by having your children participate in vaccination programmes in your country, we can be able to prevent many, many cancers.


Dr Rolando Herrero, Jefe de la Sección de Detección Precoz y Prevención – La vacunación contra el cáncer

Podemos prevenir muchos cánceres aplicando vacunas contra los agentes infecciosos que son la causa de varios de estos cánceres. Uno de los desarrollos más recientes y más importantes en la medicina es la disponibilidad de la vacuna contra el virus de papiloma que es causante del cáncer de cervix, unos de los cánceres más frecuentes en mujeres y también de varios otros cánceres en los órganos genitales tanto de hombres como de mujeres y en larofaringe. Este cáncer de cervix es todavía responsable de más de 250000 muertes por año en mujeres y por lo tanto la utilización de estas vacunas, que se aplican por lo general en mujeres adolescentes, pero en algunos lugares también en hombres pueden reducir enormemente la incidencia y la mortalidad por este tipo de tumores. Los otros cánceres que son prevenibles por vacunación son los cánceres del hígado que se asocian con el virus de la hepatitis B y tenemos también disponible desde hace muchos años la vacuna contra la hepatitis B que se aplica generalmente en los recién nacidos en casi todos los países y por lo tanto es muy importante que los padres se aseguren de que sus hijos participan en los programas de vacunación contra la hepatitis B y el virus de papiloma.


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