Online survey assesses risk of cancer

New tool can determine level of risk for breast, 
lung, cervical, colorectal  cancers in just 10 minutes (Courtesy of Flickr via Ray_from_LA). New tool can determine level of risk for breast, lung, cervical, colorectal cancers in just 10 minutes (Courtesy of Flickr via Ray_from_LA).

Dominique Taylor
Life Reporter

Identifying your cancer risk is easier now because of a new online survey tool developed by the government of Ontario.

MyCancerIQ takes less than 10 minutes to complete and gives a personalized assessment for four commonly diagnosed cancers: breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer.

“It takes about 20 years for cancer to develop,” said Alice Peter, epidemiologist and director of population health and prevention at Cancer Care Ontario.

“If you start now, eating healthy, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation … you will prevent cancer that may occur in the future,” she said.

The tool was developed over three years and involved about 60 people, including a team of scientists, designers and IT professionals, said Peter.

“The kind of advice that we provide for you is specific to you, “ she said.

“You can learn what your real risks are, what’s driving your risks, and where you land compared to other people in Ontario of the same age and gender, and what is making your risk higher or lower than the average person,” she said.

Daniel Heartly, 20, a student in the architectural technology program at Humber, said he “thinks about cancer every day.” He lost a family friend to cancer, and has made many lifestyle choices to keep himself well.

“I go to the gym every day to maintain my health, keep my immune system strong and keep my body functioning,” said Heartly. “I eat healthy too,”

Daniel Santa Mia, PhD, a specialist in cancer and exercise and program head of kinesiology at the University of Guelph-Humber, said “being aware of your body” is also an important part of managing your health.

He said people who typically engage in healthy behaviours like exercising and eating right are also more likely to engage in “cancer screening measures,” like breast self-exams or other tests.

“A testicular self-examination is something a lot of guys don’t think about, but testicular cancer typically affects men in their adolescence and early 20’s,” said Santa Mia.

While a family history and genetics can increase the risk of developing some kinds of cancers, Santa Mia said exercise “can create an environment that is not favourable for cancer cell progression.”

Exercise reduces the amount of circulating hormones, insulin and certain harmful protein hormones, like leptin, in the body that can contribute to cancer, said Santa Mia.

Exercise can reduce the incidence of some cancers like colon, breast, endometrial, and prostate cancer anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent, he said.

The survey tool can be found at here.