The most common forms of cancer are breast, prostate, lung and colorectal that each account for around one in eight cancers, and together make up half the total new cases of cancer in the 34 developed countries of the OECD.
Ireland is one of nine countries with the highest rates, along with Denmark, the US, Netherlands and France. The countries with the lowest — Mexico, Chile, Greece and Turkey record a third less per year. The report says that this is due to people’s risk habits, such as smoking, and to national policies such as screening and to the quality of reporting.
Twice as many Irish women get breast cancer as Greek and Turkish women. It is the most common form of cancer for women generally with the highest rates recorded in other northern EU countries — Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.
However, survival rates show a big difference with the numbers recovering in all three countries being considerably better than in Ireland. There were no figures for survival rates in Greece and Turkey.
Ireland was in the bottom third of countries for people surviving cervical and colorectal or bowel cancers. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men in most countries and in Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Australia the rates were 50% higher than the OECD average. Irishmen are six times more likely to have prostate cancer than the lowest, Greece.
Donal Buggy of the Irish Cancer Society agreed that survival rates were much better in other countries but says Ireland has been catching up, thanks to better screening, treatment an organisation of the medical services.
Screening was very important with 90% of those diagnosed in the early stages of bowel cancer likely to survive while only 10% survive when discovered in the fourth stage.
Lifestyle such as smoking, obesity, alcohol and lack of exercise contribute to about 40% of cancers, while the effects of poor education and poverty can halve a persons survival rate.
He hopes that the third national cancer strategy due out next year will address these issues, and that the effects of changes made over the past 20 years will increase survival rates faster than in other countries that are ahead at the moment.
“I believe we will see the results of the screening and treatment changes made during the previous two strategies that was first launched in 1996 when we had the worst survival rates in Europe”, he said.
Survival rates for bowel and breast cancer have improved in Ireland over the decade to 2013, but the figures show an increase in death rates for cervical cancer, together with Sweden, Latvia, Estonia and Luxembourg.
Ireland the highest rate of admissions to hospital for asthma and related breathing ailments.