Can­cer pre­ven­tion an elec­tion fo­cus

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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.’’

Pic­ture: Bob Fin­layson

Cru­sade: Ian Olver, CEO of Can­cer Coun­cil Aus­tralia, says obe­sity should also be tar­geted in can­cer pre­ven­tion

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