Perhaps one of the biggest fears for anyone in today’s world is a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, it’s a fear that many Coloradans will face over the course of their lifetimes; about 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. As frightening as cancer can be, it’s not necessarily a death sentence. There are many different types of cancer, and each case can have a vastly different prognosis from the next. Much is not known about cancer. Some of us are more predisposed to certain types of cancer due to our genetic histories. This can make it difficult to avoid getting cancer without preventative surgeries, which remain somewhat controversial in the medical community. However, some cancers are much more preventable — and much more easily triggered by environmental factors. With that being said, it’s important to be informed not only about the types of cancers we’re at risk for, but the different environmental risks surrounding us in Colorado.
Although Colorado has a reputation for being one of the most eco friendly, “green” states, there are still external issues that can lead to its residence being at risk for cancer. Let’s look into what kinds of cancer risks Colorado residents should be concerned about, and what we can do to prevent cancer in the first place.
What Kinds Of Cancer Should Colorado Residents Worry About?
Theoretically, anyone could develop almost any kind of cancer. A few different types of cancer are more prevalent in Colorado than others, however. According to the Colorado Cancer Statistics Center, from 2011 to 2015 breast cancer had the highest incidence rate in the state, followed by prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectum cancer, skin cancer, and finally uterine cancer. Just because those were the most common types of cancer, however, doesn’t make them the deadliest types. Lung cancer was the deadliest cancer in the state at that time. Breast cancer followed, then prostate cancer, colorectum cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer. The distinction of deadliest cancers is determined by the rate of death, not necessarily the number of deaths total. As time goes on, these death rates did change somewhat, with leukemia and liver cancer also being problematic for Colorado residents. But why? Why were these types of cancers such big problems for Colorado residents in particular?
What Are The Cancer Risk Factors For Coloradans?
There are a number of particular cancer risk factors for Colorado residents. One issue, in particular, is the amount of time that we tend to spend out in the sun. The state’s high elevation and bracing sunlight — throughout the year, not just during the summer — makes it the state with the highest amount of skin cancer incidents per capita. Skin cancer is usually caused by overexposure to sunlight, as well as intense skin damage in general. Skin cancer, otherwise known as melanoma, is actually quite curable when diagnosed — but many people don’t take a second look at questionable moles or freckles when they really should. Of course, screening, in general, is crucial to early detection, which in turn is the best way to ensure a positive prognosis following a cancer diagnosis. Some cancers are unpredictable, but they can be caught early. Yearly breast and prostate cancer screenings are recommended for men and women after a certain age, but they’re often skipped — as are colorectum cancer screenings. These screenings may not be comfortable, and they may be inconvenient. But it’s important to prioritize them. Many cancers are quite treatable if you catch them early. In general, Coloradans are very healthy, which is why they tend to have lower incidences of cancer diagnoses than other residents of other states. This is why skipped screenings are among the major risk factors surrounding cancer deaths in the state. Now, though many Coloradans have given up smoking, a classic cause of lung cancer, that vice has been taken over by vaping. Little is known about the health effects of vaping, but it is beginning to be linked to lung cancer. Therefore, you should give it up, and hold off from vaping until more is known about its risks.
What Can We Do To Reduce Our Cancer Risk?
“Skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers,” says Christine E. Foley, Chief Operating Officer of SkinCare Physicians. “Roughly 3 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year alone. While skin cancer is common, it is rarely fatal if caught and treated early. It has been clearly shown that regular sunscreen use and regular skin examinations remain the very best way to protect yourself and help lower skin cancer rates.”
We’ve emphasized how important it is to keep up with cancer screenings. However, you can also actively prevent your cancer risk by living a healthy lifestyle, and cutting down on your exposure to toxic chemicals — EPA research has indicated that household cleaners are three times as toxic as the pollution we’re exposed to. You should also maintain a healthy diet, with plenty of plants. Some plants, like tomatoes, are known to help prevent cancer; indeed, the written evidence of plants being used for healing and treating illnesses dates back 5,000 years. In this day and age, there are medical steps you can take to prevent cancer as well. Young girls can be vaccinated against HPV, which in itself contributes to the development of cervical cancer. Living a healthy lifestyle, with regular exercise and a healthy weight and diet, can also help you lower your risk of cancer. Be aware of the medications you’re using, and their side effects. Overusing certain hormonal supplements or medications has even been linked to the development of ovarian cancer, which — with 21,980 people diagnosed each year — is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women.
Don’t live your life in fear of cancer. However, you should remain aware of the disease, and what can contribute to your risk of developing cancer. Be safe, and don’t assume that because you live in Colorado your risk is minimal.