Types of Cancer

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This month, the world turns its sight to one of the leading causes of death worldwide, that is cancer; and it is also becoming a painful scourge in low and middle income countries. Here, I take a look at the commonest type of cancers worldwide and in Nigeria based on diagnosis and validity in cancer registry.

There are more than 100 types of cancer. Types of cancer are usually named for the organs or tissues where the cancers form. For example, lung cancer starts in cells of the lung, and brain cancer starts in cells of the brain. Cancers also may be described by the type of cell that formed them, such as an epithelial cell or a squamous cell.

Cancers that are most common in men include: Lung cancer contributing nearly 17% of the total number of new cancer cases diagnosed in 2012. Also, prostate and colorectal cancers. Other common cancers among men are stomach and liver.

Common among women is breast cancer contributing more than 25% of the total number of new cancer cases diagnosed in 2012. This is followed by colorectal, lung and cervical cancers.

These statistics place breast, lung, colorectal and cervical cancers as the top most common cancers in the world.

Among the most common types of cancer in the world,  these have been found to be most common in Nigeria: breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma – Lymphoma is cancer that begins in cells of the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system which helps the body fight infection and disease. Because lymph tissues are found in all parts of the body, lymphoma can begin almost anywhere. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and these can occur in both adults and children.

Colorectal cancer – this cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is the lower part of the body’s digestive system. Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps become cancer over time. Therefore, finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancer.

Prostate cancer – this type of cancer is very common among men older than 65 years and they most often do not die of the disease. The prostate gland makes fluid that forms part of semen and almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms. Advanced prostate cancer can cause men to urinate more often or have a weaker flow of urine, but these symptoms can also be caused by benign prostate conditions.

Cervical cancer – The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus (the organ where a foetus grows). Long-lasting infections with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause almost all cases of cervical cancer. Vaccines that protect against infection with these types of HPV can greatly reduce the risk of cervical cancer. Also, having a Pap test to check for abnormal cells in the cervix or a test to check for HPV can find cells that may become cervical cancer. These cells can be treated before cancer forms. It is important to note that if found and treated in the early stages, cervical cancer usually can be cured.


Acknowledgements – some information in this article were culled from:

National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/

Epidemiology and Incidence of Common Cancers in Nigeria a Journal of Cancer Biology & Research: https://www.jscimedcentral.com/CancerBiology/cancerbiology-5-1105.pdf

World Cancer Research Fund International: https://www.wcrf.org/int/cancer-facts-figures/worldwide-data

American Cancer Society: https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/cancer-facts-figures-2017.html


Mr Ganiyu Agboola contributed this article.

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