Ireland has the third highest rate of cancer deaths in the EU and unless people begin to change their lifestyles it could get a whole lot worse.
That’s according to one of the country’s foremost cancer experts, Prof John Crown who said that after smoking, obesity was the second biggest cause of cancer. With cancer accounting for close to a third of all deaths in Ireland in 2011, according to figures published by Eurostat, only the Netherlands and Slovenia have higher rates.
This compares to Bulgaria and Romania, two of the EU’s poorer countries, where cancer accounts for fewer than one in five deaths, while the EU average is about a quarter.
Prof Crown, who is also a senator, said that cancer increases with affluence, and while lung cancer was reducing due to a drop in smoking, high sugar and fat diets were taking its toll.
“We are storing up a whole heap of trouble with obesity and nutrition being the second biggest cause of cancer but also responsible for diabetes, heart disease and other ailments”, he said.
It was time these issues were tackled by the Government, Many of the cancers people were suffering now were preventable with better nutrition.
Rates in the US began to drop ten years ago, Prof Crown said, which could have been partly due to people using less hormone replacement therapy.
The study also reveals that Ireland also has the second highest rate of deaths due to cancer among people aged 65 years and over.
Cancer accounted for 28.4% of all deaths in people aged 65 and over in 2011 compared to the EU average of just under 24%.
The number of people aged under 65 years in Ireland dying from cancer in 2011 accounted for 37% of all deaths in that age group, broadly in line with the EU average.
Lung cancer remains the most common type of fatal cancer here, accounting for 21.3% of all deaths due to the disease.
Colorectal cancer accounts for 12% followed by breast cancer (8%) and pancreas cancer (5.5%).
Prostate cancer, which affects only males, accounted for 6.5% of all cancer deaths, but over 10% of all fatal cancers in men.
Overall, cancer claimed almost 1.3 million lives in the EU in 2011.
Cancer also accounted for more than 37% of all deaths for Europeans aged under 65 years — more than 345,000 deaths.
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