Ed's Note

Every bit counts in fight against cancer

Cancer is a scary disease. Its treatment can be just as scary.

That includes going under the knife to remove tumours, as well as undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill cancer cells.

Which is why people are keen to uncover the factors that may cause this disease - so that action can be taken to, hopefully, stop it from happening.

The latest culprit being highlighted in the news is chemicals.

Earlier this week, a British study published in Oxford University Press reported that a cocktail of 50 common chemicals that are deemed safe may blend lethally inside the body. It "might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing", said researchers. These chemicals were found to support mechanisms in cancer development. Some are found in everyday items such as mobile phones, detergent and cooking pans.

Also this week, a World Health Organisation research unit concluded that a popular farm herbicide, called 2,4-D, "possibly" causes cancer.

This comes on the heels of a warning from the European Food Safety Authority, whose latest study confirmed that acrylamide, which forms when food is baked or fried at high temperatures, is a cancer risk.

This chemical shows up in French fries, potato chips, bread, biscuits and coffee, it said.

All this may sound alarming - you probably own a mobile phone and eat bread - but what can possibly be done?

After all, exposure to chemicals in our daily life is unavoidable.

Perhaps a small step that we can take is to be more conscious of the chemicals we use and the food we eat. For instance, we can choose to consume chips that are cooked to a light-golden colour, in line with recommendations by Britain's Food Standards Agency.

You may want to consider getting pans that are not coated with chemicals, or detergents that are biodegradable, suggested experts.

Of course, these measures are no guarantee of avoiding cancer, which is a complex disease.

It may just be a very small piece of the cancer puzzle. But until the day comes when all the puzzle pieces are found, we can only do the best with what we currently know.

chpoon@sph.com.sg

Editor’s note: This is the last issue of Mind Your Body. We will be part of a new Mind & Body section in the main paper from July 7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Every bit counts in fight against cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe