Health experts from the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) have identified several key factors contributing to the high prevalence of cancer in the country. These include sexually transmitted infections, unhealthy diets, environmental pollution, and skin bleaching.
In 2015, UCI recorded approximately 3,500 new cancer cases, but this number has since doubled to about 7,500 cases annually, as per government statistics.
Dr. Nixon Niyonzima, head of research and training at UCI, highlighted cervical cancer as the most common cancer among women in Uganda, followed by prostate cancer in men. Both types of cancer are often infection-related.
Dr. Alfred Jatho, head of community cancer services at UCI, emphasized the role of sexually transmitted infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), in causing cervical cancer. He urged preventive measures such as abstinence, safe sex practices, and vaccination against HPV.
Symptoms of cervical cancer, as explained by Dr. Martin Origa, a specialist at UCI, include vaginal bleeding and foul odor, particularly during sexual intercourse or hygiene activities. However, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have progressed to an advanced stage.
Regular checkups are advised for early detection and treatment, especially for HIV-positive women who face an increased risk of cervical cancer.
Apart from infection-related cancers, alcohol consumption emerged as another significant risk factor, increasing the likelihood of various cancer types, including liver cancer.
Tobacco use was identified as the third leading cause of cancer in Uganda, with evidence suggesting its association with multiple cancer types, not limited to lung cancer.
Dietary habits also play a crucial role, with a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables recommended to reduce cancer risk. Avoiding processed foods and maintaining a healthy weight are emphasized.
Furthermore, environmental factors such as pollution and exposure to carcinogens, as well as lifestyle choices like sedentary behavior and skin bleaching, contribute to cancer risk.
The long-term use of skin lightening products containing certain chemicals has been linked to skin cancer, as evidenced by cases reported by global health organizations.