Monday 19 February 2018

Unhealthy living is creating ticking cancer timebomb

New figures reveal how binge drinking, obesity and poor diets are driving us to an early grave

Breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screening
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Shocking new cancer figures reveal how we are paying a massive price for our unhealthy lifestyle.

Too much sun and sunbeds, rising obesity rates, poor diet, smoking and heavy drinking are behind a sharp increase in a range of different cancers.

Poor lifestyle choices have driven up the incidences of liver, skin, colon and prostate cancers,

The inexorable rise in the number of diagnosed cases of cancer is revealed in a new analysis by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, which looked at statistics over a 17-year period between 1994 and 2011.

One in three people in Ireland will develop cancer during their lifetime. An average of 30,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and this number is expected to rise to over 40,000 per year by 2020.

Skin cancer is now the fastest-growing cancer, with over 10,000 new cases annually.

James Reilly became one of the first health ministers in the developed world to ban young people from using 
commercial sunbeds.

But with an annual sun holiday now embedded in Irish culture, intermittent but severe exposure to the sun is behind a significant increase in the numbers of fair-skinned people
developing both melanoma and non-melanoma skin 

In 1994 there were 5,146 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in Ireland. By 2011 this jumped by an alarming 84pc to 9,190 cases.

Prostate cancer is now the second most common cancer among Irish men, after skin cancer. Ireland has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in Europe and is among the highest in the world, with one in eight men diagnosed with the disease. Prostate cancer rose from 1,097 cases in 1994 to 3,451 cases in 2011 - though this is partly explained by improvements in detection.

Cases of liver cancer have also risen sharply - jumping by 182pc between 1994 and 2011. Our heavy alcohol consumption and binge-drinking culture is partly blamed for the rising incidence of liver cancer.

A recent survey revealed two-thirds of Irish male drinkers and one-third of women have engaged in "heavy episodic drinking" (six drinks in one sitting) in the previous month.

Bowel and colon cancer is also on the increase, rising by 36pc from 1994 to 2011. It is now the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.

Each year around 2,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 900 people will die from it.

Meanwhile, Ireland is buckling under the weight of a growing obesity crisis, with forecasts predicting Irish men and women will be the fattest in Europe within 15 years,

About 90pc of Irish men and 84pc of women are predicted to fall within a category that ranges from 'overweight' to 'obese' by 2030.

The obesity crisis is contributing to the increase in cancer rates as fat cells in the body produce the hormone oestrogen, which increases the risk of breast cancer.

Being overweight also increases the level of insulin, which encourages the growth of cancer cells.

Higher levels of insulin are a common feature of many cancers, including bowel, kidney and pancreatic cancers.

The Irish Cancer Society this weekend said the figures are a stark wake-up call, and urged people to take more responsibility for their lifestyle choices.

A spokesperson told the Sunday Independent: "Simple lifestyle changes such as having a healthy diet, being physically active, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol can help to avoid certain cancers and improve overall general health. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Ireland.

"It causes nine out of 10 lung cancers and greatly increases the risk of several other cancers."

To learn more about how you can reduce the risk of cancer, visit the Irish Cancer Society's website

Sunday Independent

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