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World Cancer Day's Spotlight on Prevention

Cancer doesn't know any boundaries or borders; the disease affects all of us worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Cancer kills more people than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined, but the good news is that approximately two out of five cancers are potentially preventable.

In recognition of World Cancer Day, which takes place every year on Feb. 4, the WHO is supporting the International Union Against Cancer to promote ways to ease the global burden of cancer.

This year's theme is "Cancer Can Be Prevented Too," which focuses on simple measures to prevent cancer.

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Experts say about 40 percent of cancers could be prevented if people made some lifestyle changes.

Officials at the International Union Against Cancer recommend that people stop smoking, limit their alcohol consumption, avoid too much sun, and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

They also suggest getting vaccines targeting cancer-causing infections, saying 21 percent of all cancers are due to infections.

Donna Eberwine-Villagran, media relations officer at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which focuses on improving the health of Latin America and the Caribbean, also emphasized the importance of cancer prevention.

For example, in the U.K., lung cancer can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and eliminating smoking habits.

In Latin America, where heart disease and diabetes are on the rise (diabetes is the leading cause of death in Mexico) changes in eating habits can be made to lessen the risk of cancer.

The PAHO has also tackled trans-fats and salts, by working with food companies as well as schools to emphasize an increase in fruits and vegetables from local food producers, as well as encouraging salt reduction.

Eberwine-Villagran also stressed that although individual behavior is difficult to change, behavioral policies can help make a difference.

The PAHO also translated the American Institute of Cancer Research's policy and the World Cancer Research Fund's cancer prevention policy into Spanish.

The World Health Organization says cancer is responsible for one out of every eight deaths worldwide. It warns that without major changes, global cancer deaths will jump from about 7.6 million this year to 17 million in 20 years.