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Alarming Kiwi Cancer statistics


We are dying of cancer at a much higher rate than our
trans-Tasman neighbours.

A new study by two Dunedin researchers revealed that New Zealanders are more likely to die of cancer than Australians.

The Otago University study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, compared trans-Tasman statistics in 1996 and 1997. It found 831 New Zealanders would not have died if our death rate was the same as Australia, that is 215 males and 616 females.

The biggest difference was in breast and lung cancers in women and colorectal cancers in both sexes One in three New Zealanders will get a major cancer; every year around 16,000 develop cancer and around 7500 die of cancer every year.

Even more worrying says , Professor David Skeggs of the Department of preventative and social medicine of the University of Otago is that our overall cancer patients’ survival rates after treatment was not as good as those of Australian cancer patients.

Although our breast cancer rate is just 1.2 percent higher, women here are 28 percent more likely to die from it.

The study says New Zealand women have the sixth highest cancer mortality rate out of 175 countries, and that New Zealand’s position in a ‘league table’ of mortality rates has deteriorated in relation to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A.

The report also shows that the New Zealand disadvantage in survival appears to be particularly striking among Maori and Pacific Island men and women . That the incidence of lung cancer is higher amongst Maori and the factor that should be considered here is that Maori have the highest rate of smokers with more of them at risk from the deadlier smoking-related cancers.

However this obviously isn’t the whole answer: Skegg’s-Mc Credie study also points out that among non-Maori there are still more than 533 more cancer deaths. “We don’t invest in health in this country,” complains one pathologist, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“We don’t invest in primary care or prevention. We don’t invest in up-to-date technology like they do in Australia , Europe and the U.S.A , everyone who works in the health sector is struggling.”

“There’s been no emphasis on quality in healthcare, only cost-cutting.” Agrees Dr Peter Dady, the medical director of the Cancer Society. There is considerable debate and theories as to the primary reasons .

Is there something wrong with the New Zealand life-style? When it comes to cancer prevention there are certainly areas in which we could do better. All the experts say our meat- and- dairy-heavy diet is too high in animal fat.

Besides other health issues such as cardiovascular disease, such a diet of animal fat has also been linked to some cancers.

And by all accounts, while the New Zealanders are happy in the land of steak and chips and take-away, the Australians are eating a far more Mediterranean diet-more grains, vegetables, olive oil, garlic, seafood, fruit and more organic foods and less meat, butter, cream or lard.

Some researchers have also found links between the high use of organochloride pesticides/herbicides, such as DDT, roundup etc with breast cancer . We should also stay out of the sun more and smoke less.The latter is especially true for young New Zealand women, who are taking up smoking at alarming rates.

Is it because we do not have a cancer control strategy and the Australians do? Yes says Dr Colin Tukuitonga who is the Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health and chairman of the Cancer Control Steering group.

“Countries that have had a cancer control strategy have made a significant impact on (mortality rates). We’ve have cancer as a part of an overall strategy but we’ve never focused on it in a comprehensive and co-ordinated way before.”

Dady puts it more forcefully. “Until recently cancer has almost been swept under the carpet and there’s been no co-ordinated approach. We need to focus on cancer and we need an independent body to do it.”

The article goes on to say no one has the final answer but they all agree there needs to be some form of national cancer control programme. The Cancer Control Steering Group is looking at many issue areas such as cancer prevention, screening, treatments, rehabilitation and data collection and management.

Each type of cancer needs to be looked at separately. The expert working parties are expected to report back this year and there will be consultation with health professionals and the community at large.

Then, according to Tukuitonga , we can expect a final report early next year. Professor Gavin says other countries such as Britain have managed to lower the mortality rates , and so can we.

He says cancer control involves coordinating prevention education, treatment and support services.
Story by Cathrin Schaer New Zealand Herald 15 June 2002 also reported IRN 10/5/2002


New Zealand

CANCER in New Zealand has become the major cause of Death for Women, accounting for 26 percent of all deaths in 1995 source Statistic New Zealand and has surpassed Heart Disease as the major cause of Death.

Although female age-standardised rates are lower than for males, females rate have increased by 5 percent over the last ten years, while male rates have dropped 3 percent .

Breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for female in 1995 ( 25.5 deaths per 100,000 population) and although numbers of deaths have increased by 21 percent over the last decade, age-standardised rates have increased by only 2 percent.

Since 1986 female lung cancer mortality rates have increased by 36 percent, from 14.3 deaths per 100,000 population to 19.4 deaths per 100,000 in 1995. Although males are still more likely to die from lung cancer than females, the gap between the sexes has narrowed over the last decade.

Males were three times more likely than females to die from lung cancer in 1986, but only twice as likely in 1995. Women in the 25-44 age group the leading cause of death is cancer and 1 in 3 of these deaths are from breast cancer.

Disease of the circulatory system (mainly heart attacks) , also begin to impact on this age group. Among women in 45 to 64 age group, over half of deaths are from cancer with breast cancer being most common.

Disease of circulatory system ( eg ischaemic heart disease), lung and bowel cancers and diseases of the respiratory system are other common causes of death. From age 65 years onwards , circulatory diseases, such as ischaemic disease and strokes are the major cause of death.

In 1995 half ( 49 percent) of all female deaths in this age group were from circulatory diseases , while a further 22 percent were from various types of cancer and 13 percent from respiratory diseases.


Australian Cancer Statistics

The rise of cancer in 20th-century Australia Adjusted for population increase, Cancer is up 300% on 1901. It now affects 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women .

New Zealand by International standards, has the most deaths from Cancer, Japan the least.

Malignant neoplasms, standardised rate per 100,000 population .

Cancers *
New Zealand
Hong Kong
United States
United Kingdom

United States of America Cancer Statistics

See below the rising growth of cancer as reported by Samuel Epstein M.D. Head of Department Toxicology, School of Public Health, University of Illinois Medical Centre Chicago and founder of the Cancer Prevention Coalition in a document named “Losing the Winnable War Against Cancer”

Escalating Incidence of Cancer

Over recent decades, the incidence of cancer has escalated to epidemic proportions, now striking nearly one in two men (44%) and over one in three women (38%) in their lifetimes

(1). This increase translates into about 56% more cancer in men and 22% more cancer in women over the course of a single generation

(2). From 1973 to 1999, based on the latest available data, the overall incidence of cancer rates at all sites, adjusted to reflect the aging population, has increased by about 24% .

While the overall incidence of lung cancer increased by 30%, it decreased by 6% in men and increased by 143% in women, reflecting major changes in their respective smoking practices.

Particularly striking, however, has been the increase
of predominantly non-smoking cancers, notably:

  • malignant melanoma, 156%
  • liver, 104%
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, 87%
  • thyroid, 71%
  • testis, 67%
  • post-menopausal breast cancer, 54%
  • brain cancer, 28%
  • acute myeloid leukaemia, 16%

Childhood cancers have increased 26% overall…

  • Acute lymphocytic leukaemia, 62%
  • brain, 50%
  • bone and joint, 40%
  • kidney, 14%.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.A. or the Ministry of Health in New Zealand. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Disclaimer: This information is intended for educational purposes only. No information or product described herein should be relied upon implicitly to diagnose , treat, cure or prevent diseases . Please make your own conclusion or consult your health professional.

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