Healthy Living

Do fruits prevent cancer?

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Eating fruits is one of the many ways of preventing cancer. Photo by Faiswal Kasirye. 

By Vincent Karuhanga

Posted  Monday, February 15   2016 at  02:00

In Summary

Fruit and vegetables are rich in a combination of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, which help to protect against cancer.

Dear Doctor:I hear fruits prevent cancer. How true is it? Does that mean if I eat fruits I will not get cancer?

Robinhood Umutu

Dear Robinhood: The body’s basic unit is called a cell. Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. To be healthy, cells divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them, like when new cells are required to replace dead or worn out ones.
Normal cells in the body follow an orderly programmed path of growth, division, and death. When the programme process breaks down, cells continue to divide and grow without dying leading to a mass of abnormal cells that grows out of control called cancer. Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) to the DNA within cells. The DNA inside a cell contains a set of instructions telling the cell how to grow and divide. Errors in the instructions may instruct rapid division and growth of cells, creating many new cells that all have the same errors and continue growing uncontrollably. Normal cells know when to stop growing, so that one has the right number of each type of cell. Cancer cells lose the controls that tell them when to stop growing. The cells have a repair system that corrects errors but the changes in cells make it difficult for repairs to take place. This is true of old age as well where there is an accumulation of past errors apart from the repair system being weak.
One in a few cases may be born with the errors (genetic mutation) that are inherited from parents leading to inherited vulnerability to get cancer. Today we are facing cancer epidemics because of certain forces that lead to DNA errors after one is born. The forces include, lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, diet, and physical inactivity, viruses including HIV, wart causing HPV, Helicobacter Pylori Bacteria. Environmental exposures to different types of cancer-causing chemicals in pesticides or plastics, hormones and chronic inflammation may also lead to cancer. There are many ways of treating cancer but some cancers are not curable requiring, therefore, preventing than treating cancer.
Avoiding smoking (cancer of the lungs), or much fats in diet (cancer of the big intestines), eating a balanced diet especially with lots of fruits, exercise, safe sex (cancer of the cervix and others caused by an STD, Human Papilloma Virus, HIV), avoiding a polluted environment if you can, limiting alcohol intake and screening for cancer often are some of the ways of preventing cancer.
Fruit and vegetables are rich in a combination of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals, which help to protect against cancer. Eating fruits, however, is one of the many ways but not the only way of preventing cancer. A combination of these preventive measures is required to help reduce the likelihood of cancer.
Unfortunately some of today’s fruits have been over sprayed with pesticides risking cancer again. Organic plant foods are those plant foods not genetically modified organisms (GMOs), not grown using chemical fertilisers and not subjected to pesticides. Organic fruits then are most important in preventing cancer.

Dear Doctor: I suffer from sickle cells. Problem is when I erect, my erection can even last a day which becomes painful. Will I be able to get children in future?
Laban Onyait

Dear Laban: Priapism is an unwanted, persistent, painful erection that is not caused by sexual stimulation and requires immediate medical attention (emergency). When an erection lasts for longer than four hours, this oxygen-poor blood can begin to damage or destroy tissues in the penis leading to its inability to become or stay erect with sexual arousal. Apart from the penis getting crooked, you need to visit a sickle cell clinic at Mulago hospital for more advice.

Dear Doctor:I have a friend with ringworms (luwumu). He has applied several creams, including MCG - which is even bleaching him - in vain. He is now using brake fluid which seems to be helping. Can he continue with it or is there an option you can recommend?
Latima K

Dear Latima: Ringworms, one of the most common skin diseases in Uganda, is caused by a small organism called a fungus. Because they feed in laps, the lesions will look like rings hence the name. Being very common, many skin conditions may be mistaken for ringworm and treated albeit wrongly.
Fungi are tiny plants that survive on plant or animal material. The ringworm fungi feed on keratin, the hard protective material found in the outer layers of skin, hair, and nails. These fungi thrive best on skin that is moist, hot, and hidden from the light.

Ringworms are contagious being acquired from domestic animals (especially dogs and cats) or where they rub against or from people, both by direct contact or from sharing clothes. People whose skin is damaged (in diseases like eczema),those who sweat a lot, diabetics, those with reduced immunity or children before puberty (mainly boys) or those genetically prone may easily get ringworms.
Treatment for ringworms depends on the diagnosis of the causative fungus and the part of the body affected. Since ringworms can be mistaken for other diseases and sometimes has bacterial infection as well, usually introduced by scratching due to associated itching, a proper diagnosis will ensure appropriate treatment.

Anti –fungal creams combined with tablets used for more than six weeks may be useful for your condition if at all it is due to a fungus requiring that you see a doctor ideally a skin specialist for help, proper diagnosis and treatment.
MCG though contains an anti-fungus also has a steroid that can stem the itching but used for a long time can lead to spread of the condition (as it affects skin resistance to infection) and can also bleach the skin. I am sure you are self-prescribing MCG and that is why you are not improving. Also, using brake fluid which is good for cars,- may have untold side effects so that even if it has worked, it should be avoided.

Dear Doctor: My three-year-old son grinds his teeth while asleep at night. In addition to that, he seems to be chewing something I don’t understand. I need your help.
Enoch Mubiru
Dear Enoch: Many people who are seen chewing in sleep actually may be suffering from bruxism, a condition of tooth grinding which may happen unconsciously at night (sleep bruxism). Sleep bruxism is considered a sleep-related movement disorder together with snoring, pauses in breathing (sleep apnea), and sleep walking, among others. Mild bruxism may not require treatment but if it is severe it may lead to jaw pain, headaches and damaged teeth. Because it is done subconsciously, one may not be aware of it until complications to the teeth or jaws develop. Also tooth grinding is usually in children and with time it may be outgrown. Emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, tension or aggressiveness, abnormal alignment of teeth, other sleep problems, such as sleep apnoea, pain from an earache or teething in children, stomach acid reflux into the esophagus and side effects from drugs are thought to be associated with tooth grinding.

These have to be addressed to stem tooth grinding and of course if dental problems are the cause, tooth correction may be ideal. Splints and mouth guards can also be worn to stop the problem. Medications including muscle relaxants at bed time can also be given apart from counselling as part of stress management.

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