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Need For Cancer Control Strategy Confirmed

10 May 2002

A new study has shown New Zealand is lagging behind Australia in reducing the number of deaths due to cancer.

The New Zealand Cancer Control Trust says more than ever this country needs to take a broader approach to tackling cancer if the gap between deaths in New Zealand and Australia is not to widen in the next few years as suggested in the study.

Results of the study by Professor David Skegg and Dr Margaret McCredie released in the New Zealand Medical Journal (May 10) show there is a greater chance of dying from cancer in New Zealand than Australia.

If Australian rates were applied in New Zealand, about 200 fewer men and 600 fewer women would be dying from cancer each year, according to the study.

“These disturbing trends highlight the potential for New Zealand to reduce deaths from cancer,” says Professor John Gavin, Executive Director of the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust. “They are the sorts of statistics that galvanised the United Kingdom to take action. And they underscore the need for New Zealand to take a broader approach to tackling cancer, as the UK has. This approach is described as cancer control.”

Cancer control has been advocated by the World Health Organization for more than 10 years as a way of minimising the effects of cancer, even when resources are limited.

“Cancer control involves a systematic and coordinated approach to all aspects of cancer, including prevention, screening where appropriate, early detection, treatment, rehabilitation and support and palliative care,” Professor Gavin says. “Other countries like New Zealand have developed strategies and we are following their lead to reduce deaths in New Zealand.”

Late last year a Steering Group was formed to oversee development of the strategy following a commitment from the Minister of Health Annette King. The group is a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Cancer Control Trust. The Trust was set up with funding from the Cancer Society of New Zealand and the Child Cancer Foundation.

The strategy will be a framework for a coordinated approach to cancer control and will involve government agencies, professional bodies, cancer organisations and community groups.

Five Expert Working Groups have now been set up to identify and recommend priorities for the draft Strategy. Public consultation on the draft strategy is expected to begin later this year, and it is hoped the final strategy will be launched in February 2003.


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