Elderly people living alone ‘could be at greater risk of cancer’

ELDERLY people living alone could be at a greater risk of cancer because of their lifestyle, a new report suggests.

Ireland’s first cancer map, published yesterday by the Irish Cancer Registry, found the risk of almost all cancers analysed was higher in areas with the greatest proportion of elderly people living on their own.

British studies have shown that elderly people living alone have a lower quality of life, which includes poorer diet, less physical activity and more hazardous alcohol use and are also more likely to be smokers.

The study that looked at common cancers over a 10-year period from 1994 to 2003 found a higher incidence of lung cancer in cities and in the east of the country.

The incidence of breast and prostrate cancer was highest in major urban areas, with the exception of Limerick.

There was a slightly increased incidence of breast cancer in west Cork, north Kerry, and a large area in the east midlands. Variations in the incidence of cervical cancer were described as “quite striking” with a distinct area of higher risk extending westwards from Dublin and south towards Wexford.

Cervical cancer patterns are difficult to interpret, however, because of the lack of information on the prevalence of the disease in different parts of Ireland.

There was a clear area of higher risk in the north east for stomach cancer and higher risk in the south for oesophageal cancer.

With the exception of prostate cancer, it was found that more densely populated areas consistently had a higher risk of cancer than those that were sparsely populated.

Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow had the highest lung cancer rates for both men and women with much smaller areas of high incidence in Cork city.

For men, there were pockets of high incidence of lung cancer in Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.


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