Thursday November 16 10:34 AM ET
Canadian Cancer Study Startles Heart Agency
TORONTO (Reuters) - Cancer and heart agencies in Canada are at odds over new statistics that reveal that cancer will become the biggest killer in the country in the next decade.
Currently, heart disease is the No. 1 killer disease in Canada, causing 80,000 deaths annually in a country with a population of 30 million people.
Statistics show that 132,100 new cases of cancer and 60,000 deaths will occur this year.
The Canadian Cancer Society, the country's largest single funder of cancer research, announced on Wednesday that with current trends, cancer will overtake cardiovascular disease as the most common cause of death by the year 2010.
It also forecast that the total number of new cancer cases will rise by 70% by the year 2015 because of the growing number of elderly.
``These startling statistics tell us that now - more than ever--the fight against cancer must become stronger and more focused so that we can lower these expected increases,'' said Gary Semenchuck, president of the society.
Rick Gallop, president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, said, however, while heart attacks were on the decline, other cardiovascular diseases such as strokes were on the rise because of the aging population.
He said there were no numbers that supported that cancer would overtake cardiovascular disease as the country's biggest killer.
``It is a little unfortunate that it has come out this way, because I think it distracts the public from the primary issue that these diseases are both causing mayhem to the health system,'' Gallop told Reuters.
He pointed out that heart diseases and cancer share many of the same lifestyle risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.
Ian Johnson, a professor at the University of Toronto's department of public health, said it was possible that cancer could overtake heart disease as the biggest killer but there was a push to try to prevent both diseases.
``It is possible because the rate of mortality in cardiovascular disease has been coming down for the last 10 years,'' Johnson said, adding that he had not seen figures from the cancer society.
``There are many more advances in cardiovascular, whereas we haven't made the same types of dramatic progress for cancer yet,'' he added.
Robert Phillips, executive director of the National Cancer Institute of Canada, said the cancer society's forecasts were based on the expected growth and the average age of the population over 10 years.
``The aim here is to work hard to try and make sure that this doesn't come true,'' Phillips said.
``What we are saying is that if we don't make any progress in either prevention or treatment, then we are going to see the 70 percent increase in cases and that will then lead to more cases of cancer, and more deaths than there are deaths in cardiovascular,'' he added.
The society launched a six-pronged plan it felt would most affect cancer control and lower cancer incidence.
The plan aims to develop a new cancer control strategy to ensure cancer patients have better access to medical care; reduce tobacco use; push for better quality of life; provide credible information to patients; and fund research into the treatment and prevention of cancer.