The primary cause of squamous cervical cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more of the so-called high-risk or oncogenic types of human papilloma-virus. The most common cancer-causing types of HPV are 16 and 18, which are found in 70% of all cervical cancers reported. The key determinants of HPV infection are related to sexual behaviour, and include young age at sexual initiation, first pregnancy at an early age, high parity (more number of children), a high number of sexual partners, and having partners with multiple partners.
Risk factors apart from HPV are tobacco smoking, coinfection with HIV or other sexually transmitted agents such as herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, long-term (> 5 years) use of oral contraceptives, etc.

About 75 percent of oral cancer cases are associated with smoking and other tobacco use. Alcohol use is another high-risk activity associated with oral cancer. There is known to be a strong synergistic effect on oral cancer risk when a person is both a heavy smoker and drinker. In India, chewing betel, paan, paan-masala, gutkha,  Areca are equally important causes of oral cancers. Epstein-Barr Virus is strongly associated with the development of nasopharyngeal cancer. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly type 16 (there are over 120 types), is a known risk factor and independent causative factor for oral cancer. Occupational exposures to agents such as asbestos and perchloroethylene; radiation; dietary factors; a genetic predisposition to the development of oral cancer; and poor oral hygiene are other risk factors for oral cancers.

The etiology of breast cancer is not fully understood. A variety of interrelated factors can influence its development. These include:

Acquired factors Genetic factors Precursor lesions
  • High salt consumption
  • High nitrate consumption
  • Low dietary vitamin A & C
  • Poor food preparation (smoked, salt cured)
  • Lack of refrigeration
  • Poor drinking water (well water)
  • Type A blood group
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Family history of stomach cancer
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Adenomatous gastric polyps
  • Chronic atrophic gastritis
  • Dysplasia
  • Intestinal metaplasia
  • Menetrier’s disease
  • Rubber workers
  • Coal workers
Cigarette smoking
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Epstein-Barr virus
Radiation exposure
Prior gastric surgery for benign gastric ulcer disease

No, cancer is not contagious. Cancer does not spread by touch, sexual intercourse or sharing of cloths/utensils of cancer patient.

Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, people can reduce their risk (chance) of developing cancer by:

  • not using tobacco products: tobacco in any form is harmful- in smoking forms like beedi, cigarette, cigar, pipe, hukka, chilim,etc. there is nothing like “Safe cigarette”
  • choosing foods with less fat and eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • exercising regularly and maintaining a lean weight
  • avoiding the harmful rays of the sun, using sunscreen, and wearing clothing that protects the skin
  • etalking with a doctor about the possible benefits of drugs proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers

Although many risk factors can be avoided, some, such as inherited conditions, are unavoidable. Still, it is helpful to be aware of them. It is also important to keep in mind that not everyone with a particular risk factor for cancer actually gets the disease; in fact, most do not. People who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer can help protect themselves by avoiding risk factors whenever possible and by getting regular checkups so that, if cancer develops, it is likely to be found and treated early. Treatment is often more effective when cancer is detected early. Screening exams, such as sigmoidoscopy or the fecal occult blood test, mammography, and the Pap test, can detect precancerous conditions (which can be treated before they turn into cancer) and early-stage cancer.

Cancer treatment can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. The doctor may use one method or a combination of methods, depending on the type and location of the cancer, whether the disease has spread, the patient’s age and general health, and other factors. Because treatment for cancer can also damage healthy cells and tissues, it often causes side effects. Some patients may worry that the side effects of treatment are worse than the disease. However, patients and doctors generally discuss the treatment options, weighing the likely benefits of killing cancer cells and the risks of possible side effects. Doctors can suggest ways to reduce or eliminate problems that may occur during and after treatment.

When cancer has metastasized, it may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy, hormone therapy, or a combination of these. The choice of treatment generally depends on the type of primary cancer, the size and location of the metastasis, the patient’s age and general health, and the types of treatments the patient has had in the past. In patients with unknown primary site of cancer, it is possible to treat the disease even though the primary tumour has not been located. The goal of treatment may be to control the cancer, or to relieve symptoms or side effects of treatment.

The most important fact about cancer is ‘Earlier the diagnosis, better is the prognosis’ It means that if cancer is diagnosed in its earlier course, patient cure and survival chances are better. There are tests available for early diagnosis of various cancers. For example, pap smear for cervical cancer, mammography for breast cancer, etc. All individuals above 35 years of age should undergo these tests regularly.

Yes, vaccines are available for prevention of some cancers; e.g. for the prevention of cervical cancer, vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is available. This vaccine can be administered to girls of the age group between 9 to 26 years in 3 doses. Vaccine is also available against Hepatitis B virus which can protect against Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). This vaccine is also administered in 3 primary doses.