NI Cancer Patients May Rise By 60%

The number of new cancer patients in Northern Ireland could rocket by over 60% before 2035 if rigorous action is not taken now, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has warned.

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, said this extremely worrying trend and possible increase of nearly two thirds must be tackled urgently through effective government policy and strong partnerships with health organisations.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting of European experts in Belfast today, Wednesday 22 May and tomorrow, Thursday 23.

The European Code Against Cancer (ECAC) workshop is being hosted by Cancer Focus NI and the Irish Cancer Society. Speakers will highlight ways which could cut the incidence of cancer in Europe by up to 50%.

Delegates will hear of the steps being taken in Northern Ireland to implement cancer prevention measures through strong local partnerships. They will visit Stormont, hear about the work of Northern Ireland Assembly's All-Party Group on Cancer and hold discussions with MLAs.

Mr McElwee said: "We are delighted to welcome our European colleagues to Belfast. The implementation of the ECAC, which also includes advice and recommendations on nutrition, care in the sun, physical activity, not smoking and limiting alcohol, would help reduce the risk of cancer in the population by up to a half.

"This workshop is an excellent opportunity for the different organisations to share ways of getting the messages across to the public and policy makers."
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Special guest Joachim Schüz, from the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC), will speak about the opportunities for improving cancer prevention in Europe. "The European Code against Cancer informs the individual of how they can reduce their cancer risk," he commented. "Regulatory action is needed to support or complement preventive measures which are beyond the control of an individual.

"We appreciate the rising awareness among health decision-makers that we cannot stop the increasing European cancer burden by treatment alone and that the role of prevention needs to be strengthened.

"This includes close multinational collaboration as facilitated, for example, by the IARC and also already successfully in place by organisations such as the European Cancer Leagues or Cancer Prevention Europe."

Delegates will travel to Dublin on May 24 for further discussions. Kevin O'Hagan, from the Irish Cancer Society said: "With cancer incidence expected to double in Ireland over the next number of years, a greater focus must be given to prevention and enabling people to make lifestyle choices that can help reduce their risk

"This is a great opportunity to collaborate and learn from experts across Europe, to identify effective programmes and policies which can make a real difference to the health of people across Europe."

Dr Wendy Yared, from the Association of European Cancer Leagues (ECL), said: "ECL is delighted to organise this workshop together with two long-standing members of our network. Both Cancer Focus NI and the Irish Cancer Society have vast experience of building effective partnerships for cancer prevention, which will provide the many international colleagues present with great examples to take back home and apply in their countries."


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