Today is World Cancer Day! A day to bring people together over the global epidemic of cancer, with the theme #WeCanICan make a difference to the fight against cancer.
#ICan take up screening programmes
Entering my 25th year, I have been invited for a cervical screening ('smear test') at my GP next week. This screening programme prevents 2000 cervical cancer deaths each year, as it is much easier to treat if detected early. It sounds a bit scary, but better the enemy you know than the one you don't! Screening programmes also exist for colon and breast cancer, and research is looking into ovarian and lung cancer to see whether there is a test that is reliable and sensitive enough to roll-out nationally. These tests target the most common cancers.
#WeCan contribute to research into cancer prevention
As part of a research team at the University of Bath, we are investigating whether taking regular exercise can prevent cancer. Our research is looking at a cancer of the blood - multiple myeloma - which accounts for 1% of cancers in the UK. Why focus on such a rare cancer? Well, working with this cancer might help us learn lessons that can be applied to the 'big 4' cancers (of the breast, prostate, lung and colon) and many others! But how...
Multiple myeloma develops from a dormant (stable) precursor (non-cancer) called MGUS (em-gus, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance if you're feeling fancy), both of which are monitored with simple blood tests. The blood test measures how much of the tumour marker (called paraprotein) is in the blood.
MGUS patients have a blood test every few months, and an increasing amount of paraprotein means MGUS is progressing towards becoming multiple myeloma. No treatment is given to stop this happening, so our research is looking at whether exercise might lower the paraprotein level (showing the disease is further away from becoming cancer). Most other cancers once detected, would be treated straight away (e.g. chemo), so you wouldn't be able to see if exercise had an effect on its own.
If our exercise programme is able to lower paraprotein in even a few of the MGUS patient volunteers, we will be able to investigate further how exactly doing exercise stops cancer developing. If it works, this will help us build exercise recommendations for people who don't have cancer to reduce their risk of getting it. Let's beat cancer sooner: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/physical-activity-and-cancer