More life if there is prevention
In October the breast cancer prevention campaign will start and there is a great supporter of it among Aeqium medical team: Luigi Salvagno, a passionate oncologist with an amazing story. He will explain to us how essential it is to act in time
All years in our life are like a biological biography for cancer diagnosis. The smoking of cigarettes, the eventual excess of alcohol, the food we have eaten, the environments where we lived and worked: all these details are actually also possible environmental risk factors that, little by little, and along with other factors of heredity or familiarity, can lead to cancer.
That's why it's so important to include "prevention" in your daily routine by carefully choosing your lifestyle, what to eat and drink or what to put your skin in contact with.
Especially for women, because according to data from the Italian Association of Medical Oncology, in 2020 the most frequently diagnosed cancer is precisely breast cancer (54,976, or 14.6% of all new cancer diagnoses). And although the mortality rate is decreasing thanks to prevention, the incidence is increasing: nowadays, 1 in 8 women get breast cancer.
We talked about it with Luigi Salvagno, oncologist and member of Aeqium team with an incredible CV including work in cancer centers in Oxford, London, Houston, Stanford University and Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. His professional path was inspired by the biography of Christiaan Bernard, the South African surgeon who performed the first heart transplant. He read it when he was just 16, fascinated by the possibility of granting people a longer life.
Dr. Salvagno, can you explain what "prevention" means today?
"In the medical field, prevention means trying to anticipate with actions and acts unpleasant events of a certain disease. With primary prevention of cancer we mean to implement behaviors aimed precisely at preventing the development of the tumor itself (for example, vaccination against HPV virus for cervical cancer, walking and physical activity, weight control with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables) and eliminating others at high risk (smoking, avoiding excessive use of alcohol, ...). While as secondary prevention we mean early diagnosis, such as mammography, aimed at early diagnosis of an already established tumor».
October marks the start of the breast cancer prevention campaign. Who is it aimed at?
«In Italy, free breast cancer screening applies to women between 50 and 70 years of age and involves a mammogram every two years. In some regions, we are also experimenting with a broader age range from 45 to 74. This allows us to diagnose small tumors and intervene early.» All information is at https://www.salute.gov.it/
Why don't all women adhere?
«While in the Centre-North and in big cities screening works well, in the South and in more peripheral areas it happens that due to a number of reasons (work commitments, family difficulties or complex logistical situations), the person has difficulty in joining the campaign. Luckily, there are initiatives at local level, such as that of the “Amiche per la Pelle”, Association directed by Nicola Balestrieri (another surgeon and oncologist member of Aeqium team), that provides a traveling camper to meet women all over Italy. The website is amicheperlapelle.org».
What are the primary risk factors for breast cancer that we women are subjected to on a daily basis?
«Aside from heredity, which is linked to a limited percentage of cancers, important factors are familiarity (presence of 1 or more cases of cancer in the family), risk factors such as hormones (including estrogen that we take in perimenopause and menopause), alcohol abuse (for women, even 3 glasses of wine a day increases the risk) and, most likely, all environmental pollutants.
However, all these factors take years to take effect. That's why using "clean", safe or natural products every day is a good thing. When I visit my patients, I always ask them where they lived, what work they did, to try to understand what happened before. Epidemiologists, for example, do this on a large scale, studying individual elements and looking for relationships to suggest changes or instructions at the policy and legislative level».
«Generally, beautiful skin is associated with a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, use of appropriate cosmetics and also protective actions such as proper sun exposure. If there is one thing I have evidence of, it is that in a person who is ill or undergoing cancer therapy, she often has undesirable effects on her skin as well».
What are your thoughts on cosmetic lines in general?
«Let me make a premise. For women with cancer, the fear of therapy goes hand in hand with a whole series of side effects. It is in this context that the image becomes an essential part of the person and therefore cosmetics play a role of great help in improving the image with which we present ourselves to others».
Is this why you support the “Amiche per la pelle” association, which donates aesthetic assistance to cancer patients?
«Yes, it is. Within the Association, the "Coccole e Bellezza" (Cuddles & Beauty) group is made up of beauticians, makeup artists, volunteer masseuses who come to the hospital to take care of the aesthetic appearance of women, to restore confidence and a rosy outlook on life, to look to the future with serenity ».
Why did you choose to be part of the Aeqium team?
«The reasons are many. First of all, I think that addressing the aesthetic aspect of women in therapy can help us intervene in a positive way in the person's self-image, and therefore in her self-esteem. Then because there is always a need for good, safe products for the skin: we are using and prescribing them, and everyone comes back satisfied. Even my daughters. And if I've recommended these products to them, it means I trust them, because they are very good and effective products».