Cancer prevention an election focus
From Health cover
death rate from bowel cancer by up to 33 per cent’’. Professor Olver said relatively low participation rates — which range from 36 per cent of those in the Northern Territory sent invitations, to 48 per cent in Tasmania — were a problem and suggested the need for a public awareness campaign.
‘‘ The thought of (taking the sample) is probably worse than the reality,’’ Professor Olver said. ‘‘ Possibly when people see how straightforward it is, they won’t be put off by the thought of puddling around in the toilet bowl. It’s a no-touch technique — you are a dipstick-length away.’’
Meanwhile, the Cancer Council also released the National Cancer Prevention Policy for 2007-09, which takes a stronger focus on obesity as its status as a risk factor for cancer becomes clearer.
‘‘ Both post-menopausal breast cancer and bowel cancer — two of the biggest (cancer killers) — have obesity as one of their causes,’’ Professor Olver said. ‘‘ The evidence (of a link) with bowel and breast cancer has now become quite clear. We have talked about it vaguely before, but this is the first time we have realised that somewhere between 11 and 14 per cent of those cancers may have obesity as a main risk factor.’’
The policy document also says there is ‘‘ emerging evidence’’ that obesity is also linked with an increased risk of other cancers, such as those of the pancreas and liver, as well as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The document also points out that over- weight and obesity have now overtaken tobacco as the risk factor responsible for the biggest share of ill-health: 8.6 per cent for overweight — a share that is likely to increase sharply in line with waistlines — compared to 7.8 per cent for tobacco, which is likely to shrink as smoking rates fall further.
Olver says the implications of this stronger evidence base means the Cancer Council will start advocating more strongly for firmer measures to encourage both healthy eating and appropriate levels of exercise.
‘‘ We believe that if you take the precedent from the tobacco situation, banning advertising — particularly of junk food to children — will be a start. With tobacco, once they started restricting advertising, smoking rates really started to drop in Australia.’’
Crusade: Ian Olver, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, says obesity should also be targeted in cancer prevention