IT IS A DISEASE that has touched every person in this country in some way and, for a change, there is some good news about cancer.
The latest annual report from the National Cancer Registry suggests that the risk for men of developing cancer, which has been rising steadily since 1994, may be plateauing. Though the overall risk of cancer in Ireland is increasing due to our aging population, the report shows there has been no recent increase in the cancer risk overall for men or in the three most common cancers for men.
Around 37,000 new cancers or other tumours were registered annually in 2011-2013, of which about 30,000 were malignant – potentially fatal. Of these 30,000, some 10,000 were non-melonama cancers of the skin, which is the most common cancer but is rarely fatal.
The risk of developing cancer is still higher for men than for women, overall and for most cancer types.
Almost 9,000 cancer deaths occurred in 2012 – about the same as the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease. Lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death, about 20% of the total. The risk of dying of cancer was over 30% higher for men than for women.
The risk for men of lung cancer continues to fall, mainly due to the drop in the number of men who are smokers. It is, however, still increasing for women.
Survival rates continue to improve, particularly in bowel, breast and cervical cancers. At the end of 2013, there were 124,000 people still alive whose cancer had been diagnosed over the previous 20 years. Most of these were survivors of breast cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer or melanoma of the skin.
Commenting on the figures in the report, Dr Harry Comber, interim director of the National Cancer Registry said cancer accounts now for 30% of all deaths in the country and its prevention “must be a high public health priority”.
He pointed out that the recent fall in female smoking has not yet made any impact on their cancer risk.
Cancer risk in women continues to rise, and lung cancer has now overtaken colorectal cancer to become the second most common major cancer in women.
“The large, and growing, number of cancer survivors in our community will have major implications for cancer support services in the coming years,” he added.