Clean environment can reduce cases of cancer

The current escalation in incidences of cancer cases offers a good reason to re-examine how we live and interact with our environment.

Cancer is caused by changes to certain genes that alter cell functioning.

These changes either occur naturally or due to environmental exposures to cancer-causing substances (commonly called carcinogenic agents).

We can do almost nothing about the former but we can do something about the later. We can change our behaviours and we can keep our environment clean.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged Kenyans to mind how they live even as the Government heightens its intervention on the increasing cancer-related mortalities.

Research has already pointed at a strong correlation between lifestyle issues like smoking, alcohol and sedentary lives and cancer.

In the same breadth our environment must be healthy for the inhabitants to be healthy. So the questions that come to mind are; how should we live our lives and how should we take care of our environment? These may be the basics that we need to revisit as humanity to curb the cancer menace.

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Where does our environment come in? A clean environment is therapeutic—the reason doctors prescribe coastal holidays for those diagnosed with depression and stress-related conditions.

Environment is the very foundation of life. The foods and fruits we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe are all products of our environment.

Sick humanity

The wholesomeness of these products is determined by the health of the environment.

The health of the environment is determined by human activities on the globe and this is where environment and human health meet. When the environment is sick there is no way the inhabitants will be well.

This we must be at the back of our minds as we engage in our daily endeavours. We must be cognisant of the ever watchful but silent environment.

We must be alive to the fact that a sick environment means a sick humanity—that is where we seem to be headed to every passing day.

We pollute our rivers with raw sewerage and heavy metal toxic waste. Oblivious that downstream someone will farm with this polluted water and we shall buy the vegetables for consumption.

We dirty our cities through improper waste disposal; this waste rises and pollutes the very air we breathe.

Even as it is the Government’s responsibility to clean these cities we too have a role to play.

Diesel engines

That is how Kigali in Rwanda has managed to achieve its cleanness – government plus individual efforts. You can be sure that this single action has greatly reduced the occurence of many other diseases in that city.

We should be concerned about the state of our cities. Cities concentrate large populations of people in relatively smaller spaces. This, if not well managed, has a negative effect on the air quality.

Exhaust smoke from diesel engines has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic.

Heavy city traffic of commuter and truck diesel engines then serve as potential sources of environmental pollutants which all cities and their county governments must strictly regulate to limit the amount of smoke spewed into the environment.

Smoking-induced cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States in both men and women. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer.

Unfortunately, we can get exposed to carcinogens from smokers through second-hand exposure.

Kenya already has a Tobacco Control Act, whose spirit is to guard the public against the effects of Tobacco smoking.

In as much as the Government has developed such laws to regulate individual bad lifestyle choices, it cannot control all behaviours that predispose populations to lifestyle conditions.

More research is ongoing in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers.

But until such a time when the research is concluded and an appropriate remedy is developed, it is upon us to do our bit. We must protect the environment and mind how we live.

Dr Tuimur is the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries

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