Can­cer rate could be cut by fo­cus on healthy liv­ing

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

New Zealan­ders have the fourth-high­est can­cer rate in the world but a third could be pre­vented with health­ier life­styles, new fig­ures show. Ta­bles com­piled by the World Can­cer Re­search Fund re­veal New Zealand has about 309 peo­ple di­ag­nosed with can­cer an­nu­ally for ev­ery 100,000 peo­ple.

This rate was slightly lower than Aus­tralia (314), Ire­land (317) and Den­mark (326).

New Zealand women had the sec­ond-high­est rates of can­cer in the world at 287 new cases a year per 100,000 women, sec­ond only to Den­mark. New Zealand men were di­ag­nosed at a rate of 338 per 100,000, putting them eighth on the list.

The rates were age ad­justed, which meant that for each coun­try re­searchers looked at what the rate would be if that coun­try had the same age pro­file as the world pop­u­la­tion.

The league ta­bles showed that high-in­come coun­tries gen­er­ally had sig­nif­i­cantly higher can­cer rates than lower in­come ones.

This was ex­plained partly by richer coun­tries be­ing bet­ter at di­ag­nos­ing and record­ing new cases of can­cer.

How­ever, a large part was put down to high in­come coun­tries, such as New Zealand, hav­ing higher lev­els of obe­sity and al­co­hol con­sump­tion and lower lev­els of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

Fund med­i­cal and sci­en­tific ad­viser Pro­fes­sor Martin Wise­man said there was strong sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that these fac­tors in­creased the risk of sev­eral can­cers.

Sci­en­tists es­ti­mated that about a third of the most com­mon can­cers in high- in­come coun­tries could be pre­vented by main­tain­ing a healthy weight, be­ing more phys­i­cally ac­tive and eat­ing more healthily. How­ever, the trend around the world was in the other di­rec­tion as peo­ple were be­com­ing more over­weight and less ac­tive. Stop­ping smok­ing and avoid­ing sun­burn were also im­por­tant.

OECD data shows New Zealand has the third­high­est rates of obe­sity in the world at 27 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Clin­i­cal en­docri­nol­o­gist and Fight the Obe­sity Epi­demic spokes­woman Dr Robyn Toomath said en­zymes in fat-ac­ti­vated hor­mones pro­moted the growth of can­cer cells.

‘‘Peo­ple don’t think about can­cer as be­ing some­thing that they can mod­ify through nu­tri­tion. But it’s very im­por­tant that peo­ple be­gin to grasp this – par­tic­u­larly gov­ern­ments,’’ she said. ‘‘We have to start do­ing things dif­fer­ently than what we do at the mo­ment, which is just beat­ing up on obese peo­ple.’’

Health Min­is­ter Tony Ryall said the rise in use of screen­ing pro­grammes re­sulted in in­creased can­cer di­ag­no­sis. The Govern­ment had in­tro­duced a bowel screen­ing pro­gramme to catch can­cer ear­lier.

The Sun­smart pro­gramme was aimed at the coun­try’s high rates of melanoma and the Govern­ment was tar­get­ing smok­ing – the sin­gle big­gest pre­ventable cause of can­cer death – by in­creas­ing the to­bacco tax and boost­ing funds for ces­sa­tion.

Brian Cox, the Otago Univer­sity Hugh Adam Can­cer Epi­demi­ol­ogy Unit di­rec­tor, said New Zealand’s po­si­tion on the league ta­bles was a ma­jor con­cern.

‘‘There’s not suf­fi­cient fo­cus on pre­ven­tion. I think we can do a lot bet­ter than that.’’

The Can­cer Con­trol Coun­cil, which ad­vised the min­is­ter, did not have a cur­rent ac­tion plan, he said.

The Press

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