Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Monday, February 16, 2009

On Cancer

Permit me to embark on this 7-minute journey with Shakespeare’s muse:
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.

Mr. President, crusaders, doctors and wonderful audience:
Another British poet and painter William Blake mentioned:

In seedtime learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

I must appreciate Dr. Phillip rather than poking holes in his selection of wintertime for a forum on a serious public health issue. Perhaps he enjoys wintertime in launching a crusade against the enemy of humankind.

Implicitly and explicitly, under his leadership the team of philanthropists, oncologists, and physicians deserve a thunderous applause on organizing this event with epic cause successfully. Thus and so, we must proffer bouquets on their endeavor for congregating a moot of professionals, researchers and clinical oncologists. Good show, Dr Phillip!

I am privileged for speaking to this wonderful audience not as a guest of honor but being the part of the majestic cause that is behind this Congress.

Ladies and gentlemen, cancer is a killer disease with more than 100 versions. These versions are characterized by excessive, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells, which invade and destroy other tissues. It develops in almost any organ or tissue of the body, but certain types of cancer are more lethal than others. Cancer is growing cause of death everywhere. For reasons not well understood, cancer rates vary by gender, race, and geographic region. For instance, more males have cancer than females. Cancer rates also vary globally—residents of the United States, for example, are nearly three times as likely to develop cancer than are residents of Pakistan.

Cancer usually develops gradually over many years, the result of a complex mix of environmental, nutritional, behavioral, and hereditary factors. Scientists do not completely understand the causes of cancer, but they know that certain lifestyle choices can dramatically reduce the risk of developing most types of cancer. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising moderately for at least 30 minutes each day reduce cancer risk by more than 60 percent.

The Greek physician Hippocrates first made the connection between disease and natural environmental factors in the 4th century BC. His treatise Airs, Waters, and Places described how diseases can result from way of life, climate, impure water, and other environmental factors. For the next 2000 years, it was the most widely used text on public health and epidemiology.

Epidemiologists and other public health officials attempt to break the chain of disease transmission by notifying people who may be at risk for contracting an infectious disease. While the participants may read technical papers, I must emphasize on the need for awareness campaigns for prevention. Behavioral Change Communication must be used in mass awareness.

People need to know that saturated fats from red meats and other animal products are linked with several cancers; high salt intake increases the risk of stomach cancer; adult obesity increases the risk for cancer of the uterus in women and also appears to increase the risk for cancers in the breast, colon, kidney, and gallbladder.

Cancer of the prostate gland is the most cancer among males. People should be made conscious about the need to consult a doctor when they notice unusual health symptoms, such as, changes in bowel or bladder habits, a sore that does not heal, unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or a lump in the breast or any other part of the body, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, change in appearance of a wart or mole, or a nagging cough or hoarseness.

Scientists estimate that more than 60 percent of cancer deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.

The society must be educated that lifestyle changes and consumption of such foods that have the potential to protect against cancer. I mean foods comprising broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, soy products, and foods high in vitamins A, C, and E. In addition, green and possibly black teas contain compounds that protect the body from carcinogens. These foods contain substances called antioxidants that block the action of free radicals. Other chemicals in fruits and vegetables are thought to block the cell growth promoting effects of steroid hormones, protecting against cancers of the breast and prostate.

Mr. President, I would specifically be interested to receive the set of papers, which are likely to be read by experts and scholars in subsequent technical sessions. Apart from filling myself with knowledge, I will use necessary data in dissemination.

I epilogue my statement with a Japanese proverb:
One kind word can warm three winter months.

Permit me to modify this proverb as:
One kind deed can gladden the whole winter and the year round and round.
While wishing success to the crusading spirit of this Congress, I thank you for listening.
May God bless you!
Asif J. Mir,
Organizational Transformation