World Cancer Day


Cancer is one of the major killers throughout both the developed and developing world, including South Africa.

Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which, 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years)

World Cancer Day is the ideal opportunity to spread the word and raise the profile of cancer in people’s minds and in the world’s media.

Cancer is also one of the most serious diseases women face. It is important for women to know what is normal for their bodies, and to be aware of symptoms of cancer, as early detection improves treatment outcomes.

In South Africa, the top 5 cancers amongst women are – in order:

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Cervical Cancer
  3. Unknown (Not known where the cancer originated from)
  4. Colorectal
  5. Karposi Sarcoma

Globally, Cancer kills more lives than TB, malaria and AIDS combined.


  1. How does menstruation affect cancer in women?

Women who started menstruating (having periods) younger than age 12 have a higher risk of breast cancer later in life. The same is true for women who go through menopause when they’re older than 55. Over the past 15 years, girls have been starting puberty at younger ages – as young as 9 years.

Breast development has started even earlier than menstrual periods. This unexpected shift has been attributed to the obesity epidemic and broad exposure to hormone disruptors, since a rise in hormones triggers the onset of breast development and puberty. The age when women go through menopause, however, has stayed about the same.

  1. How does my menstrual history affect the risk of me having cancer?

 The longer a woman menstruates, the higher her lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. All of these factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.

  1. What steps can be taken or lifestyle choices that can keep your risk as low as it can be?

While you can’t control when you start and stop menstruating, you can make lifestyle choices that can keep your risk as low as it can be:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Never smoking (or quitting if you do smoke)
  • Regular medical check ups and care
  • Good sanitary care

These are just a few of the steps you can take. Girls who maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly may be able to prevent early puberty.

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Olwethu Leshabane

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