There has been an average of 3 000 new cancer cases diagnosed annually over the past five years in Namibia.
In a population of less than three million people, 3 000 cases per year is an alarming number.
This was said by Cancer Association of Namibia chief executive officer Rolf Hansen during an interview with New Era conducted in view of October being breast and cervical cancer awareness month.
Hansen said most cancer cases are coming from the north of country.
“The Oshiwambo-speaking people are prone to skin cancer and in Zambezi Region there is a cervical cancer problem,” he noted.
He explained that people in the north are affected by skin cancer, because it is dry, compounded by the fact there is a high level of radiation, because of the white sand.
They are also affected because they work in mahangu fields and do not use skin protection.
In Zambezi Region, Hansen said, about 80 percent of cervical cancer cases diagnosed are directly linked to unprotected sexual activity due to an STD, known as human papillomavirus (HPV), which if not treated manifests in cervical cancer.
An HPV infection usually occurs during teenage years or the early 20s as a result of unprotected sex, but is on average usually only detected 10 to 15 years later.
“This is why it is important to have a pap smear once a year, as this form of testing will detect irregularities on time,” Hansen advised.
He says there are about 300 types of classified cancers and in Namibia more than 150 types are dealt with. The top five common cancers in Namibia include skin cancer, breast, prostate, cervical and Kaposi sarcoma cancer.
He explained that Kaposi sarcoma is form of skin cancer that emerges when a person has a defective immune system and when HIV is present. “Because we have a high HIV prevalence rate in Namibia, we see a lot of skin cancer. It is such a sensitive topic, because most skin cancers that we diagnosed are either malignant, benign or Kaposi sarcoma.
A malignant tumour is an aggressive form of cancer, while benign tumours can be isolated and better treated.
Hansen noted that one cancer they often see in Namibia is Kaposi sarcoma, which is linked to deficient immune systems, because of HIV-Aids, then spreads to the skin or lymphoma.
The link between HIV-Aids and Kaposi sarcoma is substantive, as there are cases of HIV, where the human immune system is suppressed and transforms into Kaposi sarcoma. “It is not your traditional form of cancer. It is an immune-related form of cancer,” Hansen explained.