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New Zealanders share their experiences of lymphoma

15 September 2011

New Zealanders share their experiences of lymphoma

The Leukaemia & Blood Foundation (LBF) is launching a series of short films featuring lymphoma patients, to mark World Lymphoma Awareness Day on September 15, 2011.

A cancer of the immune system, lymphoma is a little known, but an increasingly prevalent blood cancer. In New Zealand, lymphoma is more common than leukaemia, is the most common cancer in 15 to 24 year olds and kills as many people as melanoma. Despite this, only a small percentage of New Zealanders have heard of it or know to act on the symptoms of this potentially fatal blood cancer.

The LBF films, feature a range of New Zealanders sharing the impact lymphoma has had on their lives and those of their families and friends. The films can be viewed on the LBF’s YouTube site http://www.youtube.com/user/LBFNZ from September 15 and are one of a number of initiatives being undertaken to promote awareness of lymphoma across New Zealand.

Awareness is critical as lymphoma is increasing in incidence both globally and in New Zealand where it is the sixth most common form of cancer with close to 900 people being diagnosed with this form of blood cancer every year. Without vigilance, lymphoma can be misdiagnosed as the symptoms are flu-like including low energy, persistent unexplained fever, swollen glands, coughing, breathlessness, persistent itching and weight loss.

The causes of lymphoma are still not well-known. However The International Lymphoma Epidemology Consortium (InterLymph) has just launched a series of films to discuss their recent research findings. The films can be viewed on http://www.leukaemia.org.nz/page/346 .

The InterLymph research indicates there are a range of factors which may contribute to the development of lymphoma including childhood viruses, and occupational exposures to solvents, agricultural pesticides and sterilizing agents. People are also more at risk of developing lymphoma if they smoke, are obese or used hair dye prior to 1980.

In the next six months InterLymph will be conducting the largest ever study into lymphoma with 10,000 patients. They will study risk factors, environmental factors and genetic factors that may cause this kind of cancer.

Professor Peter Browett, LBF Medical Director, says, “On-going research into lymphoma is incredibly important as the number of cases of lymphoma has doubled in the last twenty years and there is no clear explanation as to the cause.”

“It’s critical that people become more aware of lymphoma and its symptoms as it is such a prevalent cancer in New Zealand.

“Because we don’t know how to prevent this type of cancer, it’s really important that patients are diagnosed early so we can ensure they get appropriate therapy in a timely fashion.”

Pru Etcheverry, executive director of the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation, says, “Patients can feel very encouraged by this body of research that is being undertaken collaboratively around the world. It is heartening the research is starting to reveal answers about lymphoma.”

LYMPHOMA A SNAPSHOT IN NEW ZEALAND
• Lymphoma ranks as the 6th most common cancer
• Lymphoma is the most common cancer in 15-24 year olds
• Close to 900 people are diagnosed with lymphoma every year
• Lymphoma is more common than leukaemia
• Lymphoma is more than four times more prevalent than cervical cancer and kills as many people as malignant melanoma

ENDS

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