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How to reduce cancer death rates

How to reduce cancer death rates

New Zealand death rates from cancer are about 10% higher than Australia, not because we have higher incidence of cancer but because our survival rates are lower.

But a lack of data means the reasons for our lower survival rates are not clear.

“We need to measure and monitor the effectiveness of cancer interventions from prevention to treatment so that we understand why our rate of death is higher,” says Chris Cunningham, Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust.

He was talking at the Cancer Control Symposium this morning in Wellington ‘Cancer Control - How do we measure up?’

The Trust is calling for the existing Cancer Control Strategy to be urgently updated.

There are 15% more deaths amongst New Zealand women compared to Australian women, and 4% more deaths amongst New Zealand men.

“If we had the same survival rates as Australia, that would mean 568 women and 197 men per year wouldn’t die,” says Auckland University Professor Mark Elwood at the Symposium.

The largest number of excess cancer deaths was due to colorectal cancer, accounting for about half of all excess cancer deaths, followed by breast, lung and stomach cancers.

Canadian clinician, scientist and president of the International Cancer Control Congress Association, Dr Simon Sutcliffe warned that health care costs globally are not sustainable as the population ages and more people survive communicable diseases. An updated cancer control strategy should be a priority.

“If you want to get the greatest gains for the greatest number, then you have to prioritise. That means collecting data and measuring effectiveness so you can have a sharper focus on your resource use around cancer control.”

A panel of MPs included National’s Jo Goodhew, Labour’s Annette King, United Future leader Peter Dunne, and the Green Party’s Kevin Hague. Te Tai Hauauru candidate Chris McKenzie represented the Maori party.

The panel agreed that more data are needed so that priorities and targets based on evidence can be set.

For more information on the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust go here.


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