Chances are, you’ve been touched in some way by cancer. For me personally, I’ve lost friends and relatives to hard-fought battles and it makes me feel sad and worried for the future of loved ones and even myself. I’ve had a few of my own scares in the past with abnormal pap smears and a lump in my breast. I’ll be 38 years old this year and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about my own risk for cancer. It’s something I think about probably every day!
I’m a firm believer in facing my fears and being proactive. Knowledge is power. That may be one of my favourite sayings ever because it’s so true and can be applied to many different situations in life. In terms of cancer, I want to know my risks and find out if there is anything I can do to lower them.
I’m grateful for Cancer Care Ontario’s MyCancerIQ, a confidential online tool to determine personal risk factors for melanoma, kidney, cervical, breast, colorectal and lung cancer. So far, it has helped 175,000 Ontarians learn about their cancer risk and how to lower it. The site just celebrated its one year anniversary on World Cancer Day and has introduced two new cancers to the online cancer risk assessment tool: kidney cancer and melanoma.
I know a little bit about melanoma already, but not much about kidney cancer. I took both cancer risk assessments to determine my risks and learn how to lower them. Both were quick to take and I was finished them in a matter of minutes.
In each risk assessment report, I learned the factors that are keeping my risk down and the ones that are raising my risk. I also received a Personal Health Action Plan with a list of suggestions that will lower my risk even further. I love that they offer tips and resources to help me implement these changes.
I also have the option of printing, emailing or saving my risk assessment report to refer to and bring to my next doctor’s appointment to discuss with him.
For kidney cancer, I discovered my risk is lower than average. I learned that not having high blood pressure may help to keep down the risk of kidney cancer. I had no idea the two were related! My blood pressure was normal on my last check up.
My risk for melanoma was not as positive. I learned that my risk is higher than average. In the past, I’ve had some bad sunburns. I like to joke that I go right from pasty white to burnt red and do not tan.
I was not aware that having a lighter eye colour also increased my risk due to a lower concentration of melanin, a natural pigment that colours hair, skin and the iris of the eye. It can mean skin is more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in sunlight and artificial tanning equipment.
To keep my risks down, I will be following all their suggestions in regards to sun safety. I will not forget to put on my sunscreen and I’m making an appointment to get a pair of prescription sunglasses. I currently don’t have any! Eek.
Both kidney cancer and melanoma are on the rise in Ontario. In 2015, an estimated 76,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Ontario and of those, 3,250 were new cases of melanoma and 2,450 were new cases of kidney cancer. Last year, approximately 28,500 Ontarians died from cancer. That’s a lot of people!
The good news is research has estimated that as many as half of all cancers in Ontario can be prevented by eliminating modifiable risk factors. For instance, you can reduce your risk of melanoma by practicing sun safety in all seasons, avoiding tanning equipment and watching your skin for changes. As for kidney cancer, maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure and not smoking helps to reduce your risk.
Want to know your risks? Visit MyCancerIQ.ca and get your personal risk assessments and personalized action plan for melanoma, kidney cancer and the other types of cancers. Share this site with your family and friends so they can learn how to reduce their risks, too! It’s free to use and is a valuable resource. I feel better knowing that I’m doing everything I can to live a healthy, happy life.
Did you take the online cancer risk assessment?
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.