Expert Opinion

Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Practical Steps To Minimize The Risks Of Developing Cancer


Dr. Imoh Okon


Based on current data from multiple sources, breast cancer remains the most common cancer type among women. Although breast cancer predominantly occurs in women, a small number of cases may be found in men.

While significant progress with respect to diagnoses, treatments and management of the disease has been achieved in recent years, there remains much work. As is often the case with other cancer types, breast cancer has several potential causes, and the symptoms or disease presentation have several variables.

Causative factors include genetic predisposition, with mutations within the breast cancer antigens (BRCA) genes identified as major players. Furthermore, hormonal triggers, external contributions from environmental exposures or dietary inputs are not at all surprising. An individual’s ability to effectively modulate and restore normal cellular processes caused by intrinsic or external aberrations are highly variable, hence the disease onset, diagnosis and prognosis is susceptible to similar variations.

In other words, breast cancer symptoms and response to therapies are not a “one-size-fits-all” deal. The lists of symptoms or “early signs” often found on websites and other sources, at best serve as guides of things to keep an eye on. Ultimately, no one knows your body better than yourself, and it is imperative to be proactive especially with sudden and unusual feelings/signs.

Personally, I believe that in the absence of prevention, early detection may provide the best chance of defeating (breast) cancer. This week I read of an interesting new study aimed at enlisting the strong olfactory sense of dogs to detect secretions in the urine of cancer patients. It would be interesting to see what results the study would yield; perhaps our canine friends can “come to our rescue” in the fight against cancer. But this study highlights the extent at pushing boundaries beyond the traditional way of conducting research, providing support for the need to try novel, out-of-the-box, unconventional approaches. The fight against a formidable cancer enemy will require highly ingenious inventions and interventions.

For developing countries, especially in the African continent, cancer requires long term treatments and management, unlike malaria, tuberculosis and other similar diseases for which treatments or vaccines maybe readily available. So what practical steps can we take to minimize the risks of developing cancer? Outlined here are three important guides.

  1. Control your environment, especially air pollution, as much as, is practically possible. Environmental pollutions, especially low-level but long term exposures to diverse fumes from multiple sources can play a role in cancer onset.
  2. Pay attention to your food. Stick with fresh, homemade food and minimize or keep “fast-food” to occasional treats. Fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to processed, canned foods are always a better option. Small gardens in the backyard can be readily used to grow tomatoes and vegetables. Pesticides and other chemicals used to treat crops could be potentially harmful, as can some preservatives that are used in processed foods.
  3. Lifestyle. Avoid smoking or environments that expose you to second-hand smoke. Minimize sedentary lifestyle and carry out physical but consistent simple exercise. Avoid unnecessary and risky fashion trends, such as skin bleaching, tattoos, body piercing and cosmetic surgeries.

In the end, certain cancer risk factors, such as, genetic predispositions or hormonal imbalances are beyond our control, but factors within our reach should be applied, wherever possible.



Dr Imoh Okon

Dr. Okon holds a Ph.D. from Imperial College London. He possesses years of pharmaceutical industry experience from the United Kingdom, and academic & research experiences from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, USA. He is a member of American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Science & Engineering Ambassador.

His book “Winning the Fight Against CANCER: a Layman’s Guide” is available on Amazon Kindle.



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