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Preventing Cancer in the Developing World

Many people in developing countries are lucky to have dinner tonight. While alleviating hunger is a main goal for many humanitarian organizations, the types of food that impoverished people have access to is becoming a concern for health experts. Cancer is an illness affecting people all over the world and developing countries are no exception. However, those living in the third world are especially at risk due to malnutrition, food insecurity, and lack of education.

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in developing countries and affects more people than in the developed world. One of the main reasons for this is diet. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish are all part of a healthy diet that helps to prevent cancer. On the other hand, fats and oils can increase a person’s chance of developing cancer. This becomes a complicated issue when there are no fresh foods in a community due to conflict or natural disaster, but a humanitarian organization sends processed foods. Rather than starve, the population will eat the unhealthy food.

Several other ways that people living in the third world are more at risk for cancer include exercise habits, smoking, alcohol consumption, sex at an early age and sex with multiple partners. Tobacco can lead to lung, mouth and neck cancer, and early and multiple partner sex is linked to cervix cancer as well as sexually transmitted diseases.

Another main contributor to high cancer rates in the developing world is the healthcare system. Cancer screening services and prevention treatments are out of reach for many impoverished people due to cost, location of healthcare facilities, and limited availability. A lack of vaccines is also a huge concern in the developing world. Vaccines like HPV and HBV are simply not available to a large portion of the population.

There are simple ways to decrease the rates of cancer in the developing world. These include improved food and agriculture aid, increased funding for healthcare, and more vaccines available at a low cost. While these solutions are simple, the implementation of these methods can often be complicated. It can be difficult to reach those living in rural communities and healthy food is difficult to transport long distances. However, increased foreign aid funding, agriculture program aid, and cancer education would be solid first steps towards cancer prevention.

– Mary Penn

Sources: All Africa, Med Scape
Photo: The Times