Lifestyle and ageing behind projected 72% rise in cancers

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IRELAND’S AGEING population, a significant increase in the numbers of people living in Ireland and lifestyle factors are behind a projected increase in cancers.

That is according to the World Cancer Research Fund UK, which says new cancer cases in Ireland could increase by 72 per cent by 2030. The predictions place Ireland at the top of an EU league table for projected cancer increases.

A separate report from insurers out today suggests cancer was responsible for almost half of all deaths in Ireland last year.

An Irish Life analysis of almost 2,000 payouts on life cover in 2011 shows 44 per cent were because of the disease. Two-thirds of all claims for serious illness during the same period were also for cancer, Irish Life said. Breast cancer was the most prevalent, followed by prostate and colon cancers.

The study also revealed almost a fifth (18 per cent) of its death claims were linked to heart disease, the next largest single factor after cancer.

Accidents accounted for 11 per cent, with four in 10 of those involving people under the age of 40. Alcohol was a factor in one in seven accident claims.

The world cancer study put Ireland significantly ahead of second-placed Cyprus, which could see a 55 per cent increase in cancer cases. Luxembourg at 53 per cent is next, followed by Malta at 49 per cent.

States which are predicted to have the lowest increases in new cancer cases are Bulgaria at 2.2 per cent, Latvia at 8.8 per cent and Lithuania with a 10.8 per cent increase. New cases in the UK are predicted to rise by 30.3 per cent.

The cancer research group, which announced the figures to mark World Cancer Day on Saturday, said long-standing EU members, such as Ireland and Britain, had ageing populations. It noted that cancer was primarily a disease of older people. The increase in Ireland is also due to a projected growth in the population.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at World Cancer Research Fund International, said: “We know people in high-income countries such as those in western Europe are more likely to be overweight, to drink a lot and to be relatively inactive. There is strong evidence that these factors increase the risk of several common cancers . . . Scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers in the UK and other high-income countries could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active and eating more healthily.”

Dr Kate Allen, science and communications director, at WCRF International, said: “Measures to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of food and drinks and to improve the opportunities for physical activity are the type of developments we need.”

TIM O'BRIEN

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