Did you know that cancer kills more people worldwide than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined?
Today is World Cancer Day – an annual event organized by the Union for International Cancer Control to raise awareness for a disease that affects millions of people around the globe.
Activists say the event is meant to help dispel the myth that cancer is only a concern for industrialized nations, rather than developing countries.
The scary truth is that cancer rates are increasing in developing nations – for a variety of reasons.
Many cancers are more common in poor countries partly because access to health care and preventive services is lacking. For example, 85% of cervical cancer deaths are in developing countries, according to the cancer union.
Another problem: As poor countries industrialize, people are exposed to more hazardous chemicals, said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. Cigarette companies heavily market their products overseas and nearly 80% of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- or middle-income countries.
“It’s a perfect storm: more urbanization, with more fast food and more inactivity,” says Katie Horton, a research professor with the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C.
So what can you do to make a difference? Katie Couric shared some ideas for making change in a post on the Huffington Post:
1. We all have a platform, use it wisely.
“We all have a circle of influence,” Couric writes. “So find a creative way to use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram or the multitude of other options out there to be social around World Cancer Day.”
2. Think global, act local.
“Whether it’s a bake sale, or run/walk or read-a-thon, we all can pitch in and support organizations local and national, while strengthening our communities.”
3. Educate yourself and others.
“Talk to your doctor about your health, and encourage your loved ones to not delay potentially life-saving screenings such as colonoscopies. Lastly, educate yourself and others on the progress of science. We are our own best advocates.”
4. Change minds.
“In many parts of the world, cancer is still stigmatized as a death sentence. Part of the mission of this year’s World Cancer Day is to dispel the myths about cancer. It does not mark the end of who you are. It marks the beginning of a difficult battle, but a battle that can often be won. One look at the remarkable strides of science over the past decade should change the minds (and ignite the hearts) of any skeptics. If it doesn’t, challenge them.”
5. Stand up for those you love.
“Being diagnosed with cancer can be incredibly isolating for both patients and their families, and friends and other loved ones often struggle with how to be supportive. If it’s someone you’re close to, ask what you can do to help. Remember that any gesture — calling or sending a card — is so appreciated, even if there is no response.”