Back to basics the best way to prevent cancer

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz

Preventing cancer is not rocket science and going back to the basics is the best way to stay away from the terminal illness.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who is the former Chief Executive of UK Medical Research Council, was at Monash University Malaysia recently to speak on the topic of ‘Cancer and Life Sciences’. Organised by the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences as part of their medical lecture series, Professor Broysiewicz shared illuminating insights into cancer and how best to prevent it.

“Being a non-smoker, keeping a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol, and eating a high-fibre diet are some of the ways one can prevent cancer,” he shared.

Speaking strongly against the use of tobacco, Borysiewicz said, “It is the biggest poison in the world which does no good. Even opium has some use to it! This world has no place for any company that sells tobacco.”

Smoking is the most common cause of cancer. Aggressive campaigns against it by the government, is still the most effective way of stopping people from picking up the habit.

Other things one can do are to stay protected in the sun and certain infections, breastfeed, and to be more active. Avoiding certain substances, air pollution, and cutting down on processed meat will also reduce the chance of getting cancer.

“We have to accept that age is another risk factor and that is why early detection matters. We also need to make sure the best treatment is available within the economic circumstances of the country,” he said.

He said lobbyists need to promote among scientists and those developing new technology that affordable and effective diagnostics, will have far greater impact to the public, than any expensive medical equipment.

“It is not enough to develop the world’s most expensive MRI scanners. Instead, the best diagnostic mean at the lowest possible cost is more beneficial to the public,” he said.

Borysiewicz said what struck him most with the report on Malaysia is the distance patients need to travel to get treated.

“Patients in Malaysia need to travel an average of 40km to the nearest cancer clinic. This needs to be addressed, and a good solution is to provide better public transportation,” he said.

Another area where the government can look into is inequality. “Inequality affects education, nutrition intake, housing and many other aspects of our lives; we need to fight for the patients and make sure that inequality doesn’t divide the nation. When this is a priority, people will also enjoy better health” he shared.

Borysiewicz is the former Deputy Rector of Imperial College London and a founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.