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Experts advocate ways to reduce cancer cases, deaths in Nigeria


Worried by the rising cases of cancers and deaths in Nigeria, especially breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, cervical and pancreatic tumours, experts have advocated increased vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis, early screening, treatment and palliative care.

The experts said between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of cancer deaths are preventable through modifying or avoiding key risk factors including avoiding use of tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption and maintaining a healthy body weight.

They also advised regular exercise and addressing infection-related risk factors (Helicobacter Pylori, Human Papilloma Virus, Hepatitis B and C Viruses) among others, insisting that tobacco use was the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer deaths.


The experts are, World Health Organisation (WHO) Officer in Charge of Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peter; Coordinator, National Cancer Control Programme, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Dr. David Atuwo; Chief Medical Director (CMD), Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Chris Bode and a consultant oncologist/radiotherapist, University of Nigeria College of Medicine (UNCM) and Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, Professor Ifeoma Okoye.

GLOBOCAN factsheet revealed that an estimated 116,000 Nigerians had cancer with over 70,000 deaths in 2018.

It indicated that 2018 provided an online database estimate of incidence and mortality in 185 countries for 36 cancer types and for all cancer sites combined. The data was part of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC’s) Global Cancer Observatory.

Peter said, “cancer diagnosis should not be death sentence, nor lead to catastrophic expenditure following out-of-pocket payments for diagnostic, treatment and palliative care.”

According to the WHO, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the country and the primary cause of cervical cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more of the ‘high-risk’ types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and it is most often acquired in young adults who engage in early sexual debut. The two high-risk HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer are types 16 and 18, which are responsible for approximately 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

“In 2008, approximately 14,550 new cases of HPV were reported in Nigeria with eight of 10 presenting a development of life-threatening cancer and mortality rate of about 23 per cent.”

Okoye said cervical cancer could be prevented through vaccination, screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions and treatment of invasive cancer with palliative care, but presently, HPV vaccines were only available in private health facilities in Nigeria.

She, however, said efforts were being made to include the HPV vaccine as part of national routine immunisation and HPV vaccination recommended for girls of between nine and 14 years of age and should be administered prior to becoming sexually active.

Atuwo said: “The Ministry of Health is working in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to make HPV vaccines available as part of the routine vaccines to be given to the target population in Nigeria.”

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