Growth in cancer ‘unprecedented’ – Lifestyle issues such as activity, diet, smoking and alcohol account for 30 per cent of cancers

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From The Irish Times

PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent

Ireland is facing an  “unprecedented ” growth in cancer cases as a result of an ageing population and  “lifestyle habits ”, the head of the State ’s cancer prevention programme has warned.

Improved survival rates also means there are more patients to treat for the disease, according to Dr Susan O ’Reilly, director of the National Cancer Control Programme.

Dr O ’Reilly was speaking today at the launch of the Irish Cancer Society ’s annual Daffodil Day for 2013, which takes place on Friday, March 22nd. The society hopes to raise  €3.4 million from the event to fund cancer information services.

The money raised is used to improve the lives of cancer patients by providing them with information to empower them to make informed decisions about their treatment, according to the society.

More than 200,000 people used the information service last year. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the charity.

The number of people with cancer is set to rise from 26,000 in 2010 to 55,000 in 2030, she said. Irish survival statistics were  “mediocre ” until 2006 but have improved since then as a result of improved services.

Lifestyle issues such as activity, diet, smoking and alcohol account for 30 per cent of cancers, while inherited factors are responsible for less than 5 per cent, she pointed out. There was, consequently, an urgent need for people to address lifestyle issues to reduce their risk.

Half of all smokers will die from a smoking-related disease, she pointed out, while smokers enjoy 10 fewer years of healthy life than the rest of the population.

 “The Government needs to stop being afraid of losing money through cigarette smuggling. They should raise taxes, ” she said.

There was no reason why cancer survival rates could not be increased by a further 10 per cent through successful implementation of well organised systems, she said. For breast cancer, a 90 per cent survival rate after five years was now possible.