Can­cer in the air

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice -

The last ar­ti­cle that I fin­ished edit­ing for this is­sue was on can­cer in­sur­ance and it re­minded me of a lazy dis­cus­sion that I had had with my friends re­cently on the ‘busi­ness’ of health­care in the coun­try. A friend had shared this piece of sta­tis­ti­cal in­sight as to how In­dia spent only 1.3 per cent of its GDP on health­care, as com­pared to the global av­er­age of 6.5 per cent. This de­spite In­dia be­ing one of the most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries with re­gard to health epi­demics, due to its lack of ad­e­quate san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties, poor aware­ness lev­els and neg­li­gi­ble pre­ven­ta­tive health­care in­fra­struc­ture.

“Well, there are other pri­or­i­ties as com­pared to peo­ple’s health. We have bor­ders to se­cure and op­por­tu­ni­ties have to be cre­ated for busi­nesses to scale up,” a friend had said while jus­ti­fy­ing the govern­ment’s in­vest­ment on health­care. We ex­changed thoughts on the bur­geon­ing busi­nesses of hos­pi­tals, medicines, med­i­cal in­sur­ance, med­i­cal-test labs, air pu­ri­fiers, wa­ter pu­ri­fiers, air masks, vac­ci­na­tions, health foods, fit­ness cen­tres, phys­i­cal train­ers, yoga, al­ter­na­tive medicines. And yes, how could we not talk about the ris­ing share val­ues of the busi­nesses of high-on-su­gar packed and fast foods. The ever-up­ward sales of to­bacco and bev­er­age com­pa­nies, as well as their tax con­tri­bu­tions make for another story al­to­gether.

Let me tell you how this dis­cus­sion among the group (com­pris­ing so­cial en­trepreneurs, ed­i­tors, writ­ers, busi­ness­men, se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at cor­po­rate groups) con­cluded. We all agreed that we could go on dis­cussing, sus­pect­ing, and ac­cus­ing the car­cino­gens in the sys­tem for es­ca­la­tion in can­cer cases, but what could we re­ally do to put up a fight?

Well, what we can, and must, do is take small mea­sures to keep our­selves and our loved ones as far from harm’s way as is pos­si­ble. I have jot­ted down some of those mea­sures that I in­tend to prac­tise.

• Smok­ing is by far the big­gest pre­ventable cause of can­cer. Nearly a fifth of all can­cer cases are caused by smok­ing. Hence, you may not just quit if you smoke, you must also en­cour­age your fam­ily, friends, col­leagues and ac­quain­tances to quit. Also, try stay­ing away from sec­ondary smoke – re­mem­ber that pub­lic smok­ing is an of­fence and you have the right to ob­ject to any­body smok­ing at a pub­lic place.

• The In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer (IARC) has proven how out­door air pol­lu­tion is one of the big­gest causes of in­crease in can­cer cases across the world. The risk of de­vel­op­ing lung can­cer in­creases as the level of PM2.5 in­creases in the air. The only way to pro­tect your­self is to stay away from ar­eas with high PM 2.5 lev­els. Have chil­dren wear masks.

• See what you drink and eat. Pack­aged foods (in­clud­ing wa­ter) with preser­va­tives, high su­gar or salt con­tents, packed in plas­tic ma­te­rial and stored at var­ied tem­per­a­tures can be car­cino­genic. Re­search has proven that raw foods in­clud­ing veg­eta­bles, fruits, pulses, food grains and even milk that are not pro­duced ‘or­gan­i­cally in nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments’ are po­ten­tially car­cino­genic.

• In­vis­i­ble ra­di­a­tions around you are killing you slowly. Yes, there are two opin­ions on this and my ar­gu­ment is in favour of what peo­ple against ra­di­a­tions are try­ing to tell us, and not with ra­di­a­tion-emit­ting lob­bies. Ra­di­a­tion from ev­ery de­vice that works wire­lessly – mo­bile phones, WiFi modems, Blue­tooth de­vices, ra­dios, and gad­gets that emit mi­crowaves and rays, etc. – is car­cino­genic. You may not be able to avoid all of these, but you can cer­tainly re­duce their use. Let’s keep some hope alive.

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