Thursday, February 4, 2010

40% of cancers preventable

LONDON - FORTY per cent of the 12 million people diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year could avert the killer disease by protecting themselves against infections and changing their lifestyles, experts said on Tuesday.

A report by the Geneva-based International Union Against Cancer (UICC) highlighted nine infections that can lead to cancer and urged health officials to drive home the importance of vaccines and lifestyle changes in fighting the disease.

'If there was an announcement that somebody had discovered a cure for 40 per cent of the world's cancers, there would quite justifiably be huge jubilation,' UICC president David Hill told Reuters in a telephone interview. 'But the fact is that we have, now, the knowledge to prevent 40 per cent of cancers. The tragedy is, we're not using it.'

Cervical and liver cancer, both caused by infections which can be prevented with vaccines, should be top priorities, the report said, not only in rich nations, but also in developing countries where 80 per cent of global cervical cancer occur.

The UICC said it wanted to focus policymakers' attention on cancer-preventing vaccines -- like ones made by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co against the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes cervical cancer, and others against hepatitis B, which causes liver disease and cancer.

The experts said the risk of developing cancer could potentially be reduced by up to 40 per cent if full immunisation and prevention measures were deployed and combined with simple lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating healthily, limiting alcohol intake and reducing sun exposure. Dr Hill said national health authorities should also work to dispel widespread myths about cancer, in particular a sense of fatalism felt by many people in the face of the disease. -- REUTERS

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