Cancer survival rates on the increase, report finds

CANCER survival rates are increasing despite the rise in the number of cases being diagnosed, an all-Ireland report published today reveals.

Improvements in survival rates for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer were recorded over the last decade and survival rates are not falling for any cancer.

It is the third joint report compiled by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland and covers the period 1994 to 2004.

Each year over 21,000 people across Ireland are diagnosed with cancer — the most common being breast, colorectal, prostate and lung cancers.

The most common cancers among men were prostate, colorectal and lung cancers and lymphoma, while among women, breast, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancers were most often diagnosed.

Total incidence rates were 10% higher for men and 2.2% higher for women in the Republic compared to the North.

The difference in men was mainly due to differences in prostate cancer diagnosis though increased testing in the Republic.

National Cancer Registry of Ireland director, Dr Harry Comber, said the survival rate in the Republic compared with Europe was not good so it was crucial that it continued to improve.

Despite improvements, five-year survival for all cancers combined was lower in the Republic and the North than in the EU.

Dr Cumber said increased testing for prostate cancer in the Republic had made a difference, with the overall five-year survival rate for men 5.2% higher than in the North while there was no difference for women.

“Our cancer incidence rate of some cancers is still quite high by European standards, particularly the rate of bowel cancer,” said Dr Comber. One way to reduce this was screening but prevention programmes were also needed.

Mortality rates were around 4% lower in the North for men and women.

The report also stresses that people can take action to prevent certain forms of cancer including stopping smoking, reducing their alcohol intake, following a healthy diet, exercising and taking care in the sun.

Lead author, Dr David Donnolly, said lung, oesophageal, stomach, head and neck, kidney, bladder and cervical cancer all had a common risk factor in tobacco use. “Most of these cancers especially lung, oesophagus and stomach have very poor survival.

“Tobacco use is also a major factor in explaining higher rates of cancer in the urban areas of Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Derry and in the most deprived geographic areas in Ireland, compared to the most affluent,” he said.

Poor diet and obesity also increased the risk of several cancers, including breast and colorectal cancer, two of the major cancers in Ireland.

The Irish Cancer Society said it was concerned at the increasing number of smoking related cancers, especially lung cancer among women and has called for Government action.


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