All About Cancer (Part 1)

Length of Exposure

Of course the likelihood of developing cancer from a carcinogen increases in relation to the intensity and length of exposure to that carcinogen. For example, someone who continues to eat a diet high in saturated animal fat and low in fresh fruit and vegetables is at higher risk of bowel and prostate cancer than a man who may have had a poor diet but has now made some positive changes. Smoking one cigarette once clearly has a negligible risk of lung cancer compared to smoking twenty cigarettes a day for thirty years.


Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. The World Health Organization has classified radon as a Class 1 carcinogen. When breathed into the lungs this radioactive gas damages lung tissues, which can lead to lung cancer. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from the radioactive decay of uranium in our rocks and soils. It has no odour, colour or taste and so can not be detected by humans. There are parts of Ireland where radon gas levels are very high, including the south east. Radon dissolves and is harmless in the open air but in enclosed spaces like houses it can build up to dangerous levels. All new houses now have to be fitted with a radon barrier but any house built prior to 1998 does not have to have a radon barrier fitted. Therefore it is important to check radon levels in your own house. This can be done quite simply by getting a radon counter, which is available from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland in Dublin (RPII) ( The counter is left in your house for a period of time and then sent back to them for analysis. If the radon levels are high, then remedial measures can be taken to correct this. According to the RPII, radon accounts for about two-thirds of the total radiation to which the average Irish person is exposed. The lifetime risk of lung cancer for a 70-year-old man who has been exposed to high levels of radon is one in fifty.

General Warning Signs of Cancer – Catch it Early

While cancer is best prevented, early detection is vital to maximise the chance of cure. This means, as a man, you must be aware of potential early warning signs of cancer and take appropriate action. While many men with some of the listed symptoms won’t actually have cancer or other serious illnesses, it’s important not to take chances with your health. If in doubt, check it out! There really are no advantages to delaying seeking medical advice. On the contrary, early detection can literally sometimes be the difference between life and death.

  • Any change in your bowel habit such as bleeding from the back passage, constipation or diarrhoea, or a feeling of incomplete emptying may indicate early bowel cancer.
  • A change in your waterworks pattern, including urinating more often, the stream stopping and starting, peeing at night and with a sense of urgency, may indicate prostate problems.
  • A sore that doesn’t heal can suggest mouth or skin cancer.
  • Any obvious change in a mole or a wart, such as an increase in size, change in colour or bleeding, may indicate skin cancer.
  • Unusual bleeding from any site of the body:
    • blood in the stool may indicate colon cancer.
    • blood in the urine may indicate bladder cancer or kidney cancer.
    • spitting or coughing up blood may indicate lung cancer.
  • A lump or swelling in the testicles may indicate testicular cancer.
  • Persistent heartburn, indigestion, difficulty swallowing or feeling something getting stuck may indicate cancer of the food pipe (oesophagus) or stomach.
  • A persistent cough or chronic hoarseness may be a sign of throat or lung cancer.
  • Any nagging pain in the bones or elsewhere without apparent reason
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Persistent sweating
  • Low-grade fever
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Persistent headaches
  • Unusual fatigue
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