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Global warning: UK charity says cancer prevention key to longer, healthier lives

The Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) has chosen the World Health Organisation’s International Day of Older Persons (Sunday, October 1, 2006) to reinforce its message that if current trends continue cancer rates are set to rise at an alarming rate in the next 15 years.

Cancer is predominantly a disease associated with ageing. Today, in the UK for the first time there are more people over 65 than under16 and are expected to account for 30 per cent of the population by 2020, according to the United Nations.

Worldwide, there are around 600 million people over the age of 60 and the figure is set to double by 2025. AICR wants to promote cancer prevention to ensure people have the opportunity not only to live longer, but to live healthier too.

WHO is predicting a 50 per cent increase in the disease worldwide. It estimates that globally 16 million people will develop cancer and 10 million people will die from it in 2020. Yet, 40 per cent of those deaths, it argues, can be prevented.

AICR cites tobacco as public enemy number one, with diet, poverty, infection and lack of physical exercise also significant contributing factors. It urges governments to instigate effective health strategies, and people to adopt a healthier lifestyle for themselves and their families.

“Around the world we have it in our power to change the cancer picture in a generation and prevention is the key,” says AICR’s scientific adviser Dr Mark Matfield. “ Older people are increasingly making major contributions to society, through the workforce, through caring responsibilities within their family and through volunteering. Many of them can expect to develop preventable cancers that will affect their quality of life and ultimately cause their death. Yet simple lifestyle changes could make all the difference, and research shows there are benefits whatever age we are when we make the change.”

AICR Chief Executive Derek Napier believes science will continue to play its part, but there has to be a commitment from governments and individuals to translate the benefits of research into better patterns of behaviour and lifestyle. “ Organisations like mine are determined that one day cancer will be under control, rather like diabetes. It is entirely possible, but we have some way to go before that happens.

“We must however, persuade people that some cancers, lung cancer for example, are preventable and encourage them to take the necessary steps to give up tobacco. Smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor for young and old alike. The benefits to society, and to smokers as they grow old in terms of quality of life and productivity are immense.”

For more information contact Dr. Mark Matfield on 01483 527021 or mobile 07990 906145 or Derek Napier on 01334 477910 or mobile 07970 824278.

Susan Osborne | alfa
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