Friday 18 January 2019

Cancer rates here are third highest in the world, warns WHO

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Ireland has the third highest rate of cancer in the world - ranked only behind Australia and New Zealand, according to a global report.

Our inactive and unhealthy lifestyle habits along with the ageing population are leaving more people at risk of the disease.

The rate of new cases of cancer in Ireland this year is estimated at 373.7 per 100,000 people.

The trends have been highlighted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This compares with a rate of 468 per 100,000 in Australia and 319.2 per 100,000 in the UK.

Most lung cancers are due to smoking, while the causes of breast cancer include obesity and alcohol.

The agency's Globocan 2018 report estimated that "from one-third to two-fifths of new cancer cases could be potentially avoided".

This can be possible by eliminating or reducing exposure to known lifestyle and environmental risk factors such as harmful sun rays.

Age is also an important contributory factor and more people will develop cancer because they are living longer.

The report found that globally one in five women and one in six men will develop cancer at some point.

Dr Etienne Krug, of the World Health Organisation, said: "A lot of these cancer cases could be prevented, with key prevention efforts focusing on some of the main risk factors which we have heard about.

"They are tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and improper diet."

Although the rates of cancer here appear to have stabilised or even fallen in recent times, the numbers of cancers diagnosed continue to rise annually.

This is influenced by our ageing and growing population.

The National Cancer Registry of Ireland said the top six most common cancers were breast, prostate, colorectal, skin melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer.

Overall, cancer death rates have continued to fall since 1994, as have mortality rates for most individual cancers. But death rates for liver cancer, melanoma of skin and, in women, lung cancer and uterine cancer continue to increase.

Overall, people have a better chance of survival in developed countries.

The Irish Cancer Society said it was concerned at figures showing almost four out of 10 women and three in 10 men in Ireland were putting themselves at increased risk of diseases, such as cancer, by not getting enough exercise.

Regular physical activity helps to protect against some types of cancer coming back and other types of cancer developing.

"There is clear evidence to tell us that physical activity and exercise can reduce your risk of breast, bowel and womb cancer," said Irish Cancer Society spokesman Donal Buggy.

"It may also help prevent lung cancer.

"Being physically active not only helps to maintain a healthy weight, it can also lower insulin and oestrogen levels, reduce inflammation, improve the digestion and immune system, all of which can reduce our risk of cancer.

"Avoiding sitting for long periods of time and getting as much activity and movement into our daily activities as possible is really important to reduce our risk."

Irish Independent

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