Some cancers more prevalent in the wealthy

Some cancers more prevalent in the wealthy

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By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDDec 16 2010

A new report has shown that Australians living in wealthy areas are more likely to get breast, prostate and skin cancers than those living in poorer zones. The report from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, released yesterday also shows that those living in disadvantaged parts of the country are more likely to have bowel, cervical and lung cancers. Not so much with bowel cancer, but lung cancer incidence varied to a large extent.

Main results showed;

Cancer People in high socio-economic areas People in low socio-economic areas
Lung cancer 35 per 100,000 50 in 100,000
Breast cancer 122 per 100,000 106 per 100,000
Skin cancer 52 per 100,000 42 per 100,000
Prostate cancer 185 per 100,000 160 per 100,000
Cervical cancer 6 per 100,000 8 per 100,000

According to director of advocacy at the Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, higher cancer rates in poor areas were not surprising, given higher rates of smoking among disadvantaged groups and lower rates of screening for cancers. He also said that it was known from earlier data that breast cancer was a “wealthy woman’s disease” because it affected those who lived longer and were therefore more privileged. Those who either delayed pregnancy or did not have children were also at slightly greater risk and tended to fall into the wealthier groups in society.

For prostrate cancer he said, the rates reflected the fact that wealthier people had longer life spans. Skin cancer rate on the other hand showed intense exposure to UV rays that people experience if they generally work indoors, but enjoy leisurely activities in short bursts. Such exposure is known to increase one’s risk of melanoma.

The report further said that although cancer diagnoses have risen since the 1980s, mostly because of the ageing population and more screening, the death rate dropped with earlier detection and better treatments. Overall death rate fell from 209 to 176 deaths per 100,000 people between 1982 and 2007. This improved survival rates applied to all types of cancer, except lung cancer in women, for which the death rate rose by 56 per cent from 1982 to 2007. This, according to Mr. Grogan was due to the fact that smoking rates peaked later for women in the last half of the 20th century, compared to men.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said increase in diagnoses was due to the ageing of the population and screening programs. He said, “Every person aged 50 and over should be sent a bowel faecalith or blood test every two years and then if it’s positive they go on to have a colonoscopy… That has the potential of saving 30 lives a week. All that data is very well known and it’s just a matter of properly implementing it.”

For 2007, the commonest cancers in men and women were prostrate and breast cancer, but the most deadly were lung cancer with 7,626 deaths, followed by bowel cancer with 4,047 deaths. About 57 per cent of all cancer deaths were in males. More than 108,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Australia during 2007. The incidence rate rose from 383 cases per 100,000 people in 1982 to 485 cases per 100,000 people in 2007.


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