4 February: World Cancer Day

Γεια σας!

The overall aim of the FoodSmartphone project, is the delivery to the broader public, devices for food quality testing. Food quality is inseparably connected with human health because, as the saying goes, we are what we eat. Unhealthy eating habits are one of the primary reasons for dietary-related diseases such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. A quick search on the ScienceDirect database shows 1.095.675 results on the search for the quote “heart disease”, 879.963 for “diabetes”, 459.900 for “obesity” and overwhelmingly 2.048.009 results on the search for the quote “cancer”. This demonstrates that cancer has got increasingly research interest, because of the significance of the disease, the difficulty of finding an effective treatment, and also the multivariable factors affecting the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common types of cancer are lung, colorectal, stomach, prostate, and breast cancer, unfortunately, among many others 1. The numbers on cancer stated by the WHO are shocking. Only in 2018, 9.6 million people died from cancer worldwide and 300.000 new diagnoses are done each year in underage children. Moreover, the economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at the extreme amount of 1.16 trillion U.S. dollars. Finally, in 2020, 2-3 million deaths from cancer are estimated to happen in developed countries, whereas, 7-8 million deaths in developing countries, mostly due to lack in healthcare infrastructures and miss early diagnosis 2, 3.

UntitlEed

Even though it is stated that eating healthy, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, is within the prevention factors, the correlation between cancer and diet is not conclusive. In medical research is risky to fall into post hoc fallacy that leads to false conclusions, so one should be careful with final associations and strong statements 4. However, some contaminants, such as pesticide residues, heavy metals, and few mycotoxins, have been associated with increased cancer incidents when in high concentration at the final food product 5-7. So, coming to a full circle, monitoring of contaminants is of great importance to secure our health.

Scientists are devoting their lives for the study of cancer, searching for the etiology of the different types of cancer, and also finding the right treatment for patients. Nonetheless, there is something that anyone could do to ease the life of cancer patients. And it’s easy, it doesn’t cost a thing, and it doesn’t require any specialized knowledge. I did it, everyone can do it, and I want to encourage everyone to do it. As most of us know, treatment for most types of cancer includes chemotherapy, which significant adverse effect if alopecia: the total or partial loss of hair. In a study recorded that alopecia is one extra challenging factor affecting patients’ psychology and thus their recovery, with one of the classic ways of dealing with that being the use of a wig 8. So, donating your hair might be a negligible act for you, but very comforting for a cancer patient. It only takes a visit to a hair salon and a few minutes from your life.

My experience started as an idea 5 years ago. It started before it becomes personal, but the future planned differently. It started just because I wanted to do something negligible but meaningful at the same time. So 5 years ago, I started growing my hair, meaning that I was not cutting it very short, and I was trying to maintain its quality. My hair is very curly, so reaching the minimum length of 20 cm that’s required for a donation, took quite a while. This December, while visiting my family in Greece for the holidays, I decided that I will do it. So I went to a local hair salon, and I cut my hair, (pose for some photos) and then secure it in a bag to be sent for donation at an organization. In Greece, the organization that’s most known for collecting hair is “Άλμα Ζωής” and in the Netherlands is “Ηaarstichting”. But just by googling “hair donation” and the country you live in, you can find an organization in your country, and the necessary steps for this procedure.

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4th of February is the world cancer day. I hope this blog transmits the message that one’s negligible action can bring power to someone else. I hope it motivates you to do a negligible action, from donating some strands of hair, to donating some spare change, in order to improve any aspect of this issue called cancer.

Till next time though,

Peace and Love!

Ariadni

 

References

  1. Koopman, B.; Zuccon, G.;  Nguyen, A.;  Bergheim, A.; Grayson, N., Extracting cancer mortality statistics from death certificates: A hybrid machine learning and rule-based approach for common and rare cancers. Artif Intell Med 2018, 89, 1-9.
  2. Lewandowska, A. M.; Rudzki, M.;  Rudzki, S.;  Lewandowski, T.; Laskowska, B., Environmental risk factors for cancer – review paper. Ann Agric Environ Med 2019, 26 (1), 1-7.
  3. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2010/iaea_forum_20100921/en/.
  4. Grouse, L., Post hoc ergo propter hoc. J Thorac Dis 2016, 8 (7), E511-2.
  5. Rather, I. A.; Koh, W. Y.;  Paek, W. K.; Lim, J., The Sources of Chemical Contaminants in Food and Their Health Implications. Frontiers in Pharmacology 2017, 8.
  6. Thompson, L. A.; Darwish, W. S., Environmental Chemical Contaminants in Food: Review of a Global Problem. J Toxicol 2019, 2019, 2345283.
  7. Abnet, C. C., Carcinogenic food contaminants. Cancer Invest 2007, 25 (3), 189-96.
  8. Dua, P.; Heiland, M. F.;  Kracen, A. C.; Deshields, T. L., Cancer-related hair loss: a selective review of the alopecia research literature. Psychooncology 2017, 26 (4), 438-443.

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