FEEDBACKS ON INCREASED COCOA CONSUMPTION AND PROTECTION FROM CANCER

A few days ago, a media person came over to see me. He was holding a copy of the Ghanaian Times. I noticed he had opened the features page of the National Daily which carried a piece I had done a few days ago titled “February 4, World Cancer Day- Using Cocoa/Dark Chocolate To Lower Cancer Risk”. He said he was from HS TV and was doing a follow-up on the story. HS TV means Health and Safety Television- a media platform devoted only to health and health safety issues operating from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC).

The first issue was to throw more light on the linkage between February 4 and February 14. February 4 is designated as the World Cancer Day. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has adopted the theme “I Am And I  Will”for the period 2019-2021. There is a hashtag for this #IamAndIWill. Whoever you are, you have the power to reduce the impact of cancer for yourself, the people you love and for the world. It is time to make a personal commitment. This year 2019 marks the launch of the 3-year ‘I Am and I Will’ campaign. ‘I Am and I Will’ is an empowering call-to-action, urging everyone to demonstrate personal commitment. It represents the power of individual action taken now to impact the future. A multi-year campaign offers a chance to create long-lasting impact by increasing public-facing exposure and engagement, more opportunities to build global awareness and impact-driven action. Everyone has the power to reduce the impact of cancer. Currently 9.6 million people die from cancer every year. At least one third of common cancers are preventable. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. 70%of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries. Up to 3.7 millionlivescould be saved each year by implementing resource appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment. The total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at US$1.16 trillion.

According to the National Cancer Control Strategy, the GLOBOCAN estimates that 16,600 cases of cancer occur annually in Ghana, yielding an age-standardized rate of 109.5 cases per 100,000 persons. The most frequent cancers in men are cancers of the liver, prostate, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).  The most frequent cancers in women are cancers of the cervix, breast and liver. It is also estimated that 12,700 cancer deaths occurred in 2008.There is also low awareness of cancer in Ghana and as a result most of the cases present in our facilities at the late stage. Cancers can be caused by a number of different factors. Most cancers are the result of exposure to a number of different causal factors. It is important to remember that, while some factors cannot be modified, around one third of cancer cases can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks.

The modifiable risk factors include Alcohol, Overweight/Obesity, Diet & Nutrition, Physical inactivity, Tobacco, Ionizing radiation, Workplace hazards, and   Infection.

The non-modifiable risk factors include Age, Cancer-causing substances (carcinogens), Genetics and the Immune system.

About one third of cancers can be prevented by reducing behavioural and dietary risks. The CSG will work closely with other cancer-related groups and the Non-Communicable Disease wing of the country’s health service to create awareness and educate the public about the identified behavioural and dietary risks to cancers.

It has been estimated by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that 30–40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by appropriate diets, physical activity, and maintenance of appropriate body weight. It is likely to be higher than this for some individual cancers.

February 14 is a well known date for the expression of love across the world. Ghana has since 2005 adopted the date as the Chocolate Day. The next issue to clarify was the linkage with cocoa/dark chocolate. The AICR and WCRF had shown that about a third of cancers could be prevented. Among the notable preventable risk factors is diet and nutrition. There is another paper that lends credence to the beneficial effects of cocoa. It was  published by Martin et al titled “Potential for preventive effects of cocoa and cocoa polyphenols in cancer” at the Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN-CSIC) , Ciudad Universitaria, Madrid, Spain.

Prevention of cancer through the diet is receiving increasing interest, and cocoa because of its polyphenolic compounds has become an important potential chemo-preventive and therapeutic natural agent. Cocoa and its main polyphenols have been reported to interfere at the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer. Cocoa flavonoids have been demonstrated to influence several important biological functions in vitro and in vivo by their free radical scavenging ability or through the regulation of signal transduction pathways to stimulate apoptosis and to inhibit inflammation, cellular proliferation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and metastasis.

Cocoa promotes changes in redox-sensitive signaling pathways involved in the expression of many genes and cell functions. Cocoa may prevent chronic inflammatory response and oxidative damage and thus affect carcinogenesis. Carcinogenesis is generally a slow process and often takes decades from tumor initiation to diagnosis, offering a considerable time frame for chemopreventive approaches. Chemoprevention is defined as the use of specific natural (dietary) or synthetic agents to prevent, delay, or slow the carcinogenic process.

Cocoa has been demonstrated to increase serum antioxidant status and apoptosis of cancer cells, theoretically reducing cancer risk.  Research to date suggests that moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption reduces cancer risks. Cocoa has the highest flavanol content of all foods on a weight basis and is a significant contributor to the total dietary intake of flavonoids.Cocoa is a rich source of antioxidants and its increased consumption is therefore protective against cancers. Ghana, being a leading producer and also noted for its premium quality cocoa is another plus in our drive to increase consumption in the country.

Dr.  EDWARD O. AMPORFUL

CHIEF PHARMACIST

COCOA CLI

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