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The month of October denotes breast cancer month. The word ‘cancer’ is a very dreadful terminology for both doctors and patients alike.

It is so feared because of the suffering that patients go through and high death rates associated with the disease.

What does the word ‘cancer’ mean? It simply refers to the uncontrolled growth and spread of aberrant (abnormal) cells in the body.

Cancer can affect various systems in the body, including the female reproductive system.

The female reproductive system constitutes the organs and structures that are involved in the process of reproduction in women.

These organs and structures include the cervix, uterus (womb), ovaries, vagina, vulva, fallopian tubes and the mammary glands, which are the breasts. Female reproductive cancers, thus, include cancers affecting the ovaries, cervix, uterus and so on.

Female reproductive cancers (those of cervix and breast) constitute the commonest group of the disease in women, especially in the country. They have been associated with high mortality (death) rates. So the import of preventing cancers of the reproductive tract cannot be overemphasised.

What are toxins?

Toxins are harmful substances, which are capable of causing disease, especially when introduced into the body. Toxins can get into the human body by various routes like eating the wrong food, inhalation, skin contact, among others.

It is interesting to note that toxins can stay in the human body without immediately causing symptoms and do linger on for a long time, which may be for years and even decades before the negative effects are noticed.

Numerous scientific studies have linked toxins in the development of cancer and these toxins are referred to as ‘carcinogens’.

The study of toxins and ‘carcinogenesis’ (development of cancer), is a very complex and dynamic field as more and more toxins are discovered. As noted before, toxins can be in the water you drink, your food, immediate environment (work, schools, house and other places), pesticides, solvents and so on.

Toxins are involved in carcinogenesis, a very complex and sometimes poorly understood topic. It is pertinent to note that cancer cells are usually normal cells at first that undergo certain changes that cause them to begin to divide in an uncontrollable manner and spread.

These usually involve an alteration in the structure of a DNA (De-oxyribonucleic acid of a cell). In other words, the DNA is concerned with the regulation of the alterations in the genetic composition of the cell.

These alterations are referred to as ‘mutations’ and toxins that lead to these changes are called ‘mutagens’. However, not all mutagens are carcinogens and vice versa.

A number of toxins/carcinogens have been associated with female reproductive tract cancers. Toxins associated with cancer of the ovary include asbestos, talcum powder and pesticides; while those associated with cancer of the cervix include DES (Diethylstilbestrol-which is present in many contraceptives) and tobacco smoke.

Carcinogens linked to breast cancer include ethyl alcohol, tobacco smoke, aromatic amines in plastics and DES in contraceptives; recently the wearing of bras with metallic supports has been linked to breast cancer.

This has led to the production of bras with plastic support. While those linked to uterine cancer include dichloroethane found in PVC plastics and other hydrocarbon products, arsenic (found in herbicides, wood preservatives and lead alloys in batteries), DES and acrylamide(found in cosmetics).

Carcinogens can be divided into various classes based on what stage of carcinogenesis they affect, thus they can be grouped as initiator carcinogens, promoter carcinogens and progressor carcinogens.

Also, some carcinogens can influence all the stages of carcinogenesis. Examples of initiator carcinogens include nitrosamine (found in smoked fish and cured meat) and cadmium, which is found in batteries, while examples of progressor carcinogens include asbestos, which is used in roofing and ceiling materials and arsenic present in herbicides.

Because of the intricate association between various toxins and cancer development, the question of how to deal with these toxins becomes very important.

The most important fact is based on the work of Prof. Warburg (1883-1970) who was nominated for the Nobel Prize. His focus was that development of cancer is due to blockage of the energy-producing cell in the body called mitochondria leading to the switch off the cell control mechanisms. In other words, the carcinogens take control of the cell and do not allow it to function properly.

Therefore, any situation to address cancer must control the cell control mechanisms. This brings us to the topic of detoxification.

What is detoxification?

Detoxification is the process of removing toxic substances or toxins from the body of a living organism.

Detoxification can be carried out by various methods or techniques. The aim of detoxification is to treat or prevent various diseases in the body by removing the substances that could cause them.

The removal of toxic substances associated with a type of cancer from the body of an individual, for example, could help to protect the individual from developing that cancer, especially when he/she is at high risk of developing it.

Detoxification could be used as a method of preventing the development of female reproductive cancers in women – such as ovarian and breast cancer by removing the associated carcinogens. In addition to other activities like cancer screening and early detection, vaccination and aggressive chemotherapy, detoxification could also be used as a tool in dealing with the scourge of female reproductive cancers that have plagued womankind.

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