Spotlight: Is plastic proven to cause cancer?

Plastics have the potential to cause serious harm to health because of the use of chemical additives during its production. Yet, we continue to use or overuse plastic in our daily lives in the form of beverage bottles, shopping bags, food containers, children’s toys, among others.
While international studies have proved plastic in itself is not harmful to humans or the environment, but under certain circumstances — pressure, heat, light or friction – plastic releases some chemical compounds, which is called leaching.
Again, the mere preserving of food in plastic bags in the fridge is not toxic since the “cold medium” doesn’t release chemical substances.
Meanwhile, another alarming fact is the rise in the number of cancer cases in the Sultanate, according to the Oman National Cancer Registry.
A total of 1,314 cancer cases have been registered, of which 1,212 are Omanis and 102 expatriates. However, the percentage of kids (below 14 years) with cancer is 7.3 per cent of the total number of cancer cases. It’s an indication that the problem is serious and needs immediate attention.
Dr Basim al Bahrani, Director of the National Oncology Center at the Royal Hospital, however, said the number (of cancer cases) is low compared with other countries that have a high rate of cancer. But he warned the number is expected to rise in the coming years, not just in Oman, but across the world.
Another oncologist, on condition of anonymity, said he sees roughly eight patients diagnosed with cancer almost every month now as against one every three months earlier. “Most of the patients are females with breast cancer,” he said.
According to experts, we ignore the fact that plastic may be threatening our lives in different ways. People continue to heat food in microwaves using plastic containers or use free plastic bags at shopping counters rather than the 50-baisa environment-friendly ones.
According to Fatma al Ruqaishi, a nutritionist, healthy choices and practices, including the diet, are essential to maintain good health. “Consume foods that will help you keep healthy. Opt for plant food and limit the consumption of meat, especially high-fat meat,” she says.
She recommends physical exercises, while advising a healthy weight. “Exercise at least for 30 minutes or more every day.”
Al Ruqaishi suggested some measures to avoid cancer, including avoiding smoking, choosing low fat and high fibre foods and maintaining a healthy body weight.
She also recommended regular health tests, and for women, mammogram and monthly breast self-examination.
Warning against unusual changes in the body such as a lump or a mole that has changed or a sore that doesn’t heal, she asked people to consult a doctor immediately.

Zainab al Nassri