By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
Residents in Hunt County are at a higher than average risk to develop cancer when compared to other surrounding counties.
According to Dr. Meera Shreedhara with the Texas Oncology–Greenville Lou & Jack Finney Cancer Center, there are several reasons for higher than average cancer rates in Hunt County.
Of the more than 2,000 annual cancer patients in the county each year, there are three leading cancer types: lung and bronchus, breast, and prostate cancer.
Shreedhara said there are several risk factors residents need to consider about developing these types of cancers.
Tobacco use, either inhaling through smoking, secondhand smoke or other products, still remains the top cause for not only lung, but also other types of cancers in Hunt County.
“The effects are far more widespread than lung cancer,” she said, adding smoking also highly increases the risk for being diagnosed with neck and throat cancers.
When a person inhales tobacco and puffs it into the air, they are not the only ones putting themselves at a higher risk for cancer.
“Secondhand smoke exposure is almost as bad as firsthand,” she said, adding she applauds any business that has a separate area for smoking.
Residents also put their children and loved ones at risk if they smoke in the home, so Shreedhara said it is a matter of educating the public that if they are going to smoke, do not smoke inside.
Another factor that increases a person’s risk for various types of cancer is being obese and living a sedentary lifestyle.
For women, this increases their risk factor for breast cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in women.
Shreedhara said many of the risk factors in women can be changed simply by living healthier.
Staying away from hormones or estrogen-related products, eating right and staying active decrease a woman’s chances for breast cancer.
One risk factor that cannot be changed is genetics. A woman who has had an immediate family member diagnosed with cancer has her chances increased, so detecting it at an early stage is critical.
The Hunt Memorial Hospital District has been advocating early screening for mammograms. Its initiative kicked off last year with the commissioning of the Tubby Adkisson Mobile Mammography Unit.
By going into many underserved portions of Hunt County and offering mammography services, Shreedhara said the unit has done a lot of good for the women of Hunt County.
The men of Hunt County fall in line with the rest of the country in that prostate cancer is still the most common cancer.
Although prostate cancer is not as linked to smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, Shreedhara said those can increase the risk of the cancer.
Shreedhara said prevention is a key with this type of cancer, adding that annual physicals are highly important, especially as men age.
Getting your daily dose of vitamins and antioxidants, which have shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer in men, are a must she said.
Along with the previous prevention methods, reducing fat and carbohydrates, including a well-balanced diet composed of vegetables, whole grains and lean protein goes a long way in decreasing risks for these types of cancers.
Shreedhara added she advises her patients that these also help decrease the risks of recurring cancer.
“It is a big part of their after-treatment plan,” she said. “It reduces the recurrence of cancer.”
A lesser known cause of cancer, but one that is highly elevated in rural counties due to extended periods of time working outside is sun exposure.
Increased exposure is a high risk factor for developing several skin-related cancers.
One simple step can be done to help prevent those types of cancers.
“Make sure you slather on that sunscreen,” she said. “It is very important to understand that.”
There are many different chemicals in foods, water and in the air that are considered carcinogens.
Shreedhara said to keep that in mind when developing a healthy lifestyle, including where you work.
“We live in a world that is filled with carcinogens,” she said. “In a work environment, follow all safety factors.”