How Tobacco and Diet Affect Cancer Risks in Uganda

A recent article by Israel Ojoko reveals that alcohol consumption is not the only lifestyle risk factor for cancer in Uganda. He cites cancer specialists who point out the crucial role of tobacco and diet in influencing cancer risks. The article also discusses the challenges and opportunities for cancer prevention and treatment in Uganda.

According to the article, tobacco use is a significant contributor to cancer risk that has long been overlooked in Uganda. Tobacco is not only associated with lung cancer, but also with cervical cancer, which affects smokers disproportionately. This finding contradicts the common belief that alcohol is the main cancer risk factor.

The article refers to a systematic review by Nakaganda et al., which assessed the prevalence, trends and distribution of lifestyle cancer risk factors in Uganda. The review found that tobacco use ranged from 0.8% to 10.1%, and was more prevalent among males and in the Northern region. The review also reported that tobacco use has decreased over time, but still poses a serious threat to public health.

Diet Plays a Key Role in Cancer Prevention

Another important factor highlighted in the article is diet. The article quotes Dr Jatho, one of the cancer specialists, who emphasizes the importance of a balanced diet that incorporates a variety of foods. He notes that cultural dietary habits, such as reliance on plantains in Uganda, do not meet the body’s nutritional needs. He advises people from western Uganda to include sweet potatoes and millet in their diet, in addition to milk.

The article also cites a study by Donaldson, a US-based researcher, who supports the view that lifestyle and dietary changes can prevent 30-40 percent of all cancers. This statistic underscores the critical role of diet in cancer prevention and the need for a broad societal shift in dietary habits.

Challenges and Opportunities for Cancer Control in Uganda

The article also addresses the challenges and opportunities for cancer control in Uganda. It mentions the rise in new cancer cases in Uganda, which reached 32,617 in 2018. It also identifies the major risk factors for cancer, such as oral sex, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. It stresses the importance of prioritizing medical treatment and diagnosis over seeking help from traditional healers.

The article also highlights the efforts to address the challenge of access to cancer treatment, such as the construction of regional cancer hospitals in Mbale, Gulu, Arua, and Mbarara. However, it also notes that only 4,000 out of the 32,617 new cancer cases managed to receive treatment in 2018. This indicates the urgent need for more effective interventions and resources to combat the cancer burden in Uganda.

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