Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Belfast cancer death rates highest in Northern Ireland - atlas reveals

The proportion of people dying from cancer is higher in Belfast than anywhere else in Northern Ireland, according to a new online atlas that details survival and mortality rates across the province.

The new Cancer Research website allows people here to compare cancer statistics in their own area with the rest of the UK.

The website show that the number of people who die from cancer in the Belfast area is 206.3 per 100,000 – significantly higher than the Northern Ireland average of 177.3.

The charity said its data illustrates the need for health chiefs in some of the worst performing areas to do more to tackle the causes of cancer such as smoking, drinking and lack of exercise.

The statistics – which can be searched geographically by postcode, healthcare area or local authority – also showed the Southern Trust had the second highest cancer mortality rate with 173.4 deaths per 100,000.

The lowest was in the South Eastern Trust with 163.4.

The website also revealed that one-year survival rates for cancer patients in the Belfast Trust area are the lowest in Northern Ireland at 58.9%.

The regional average is 63.2%.

Survival rates for cancer patients in the Western Trust, at 65.3%, and the Southern Trust (65.0%) were the highest in Northern Ireland.

The mortality rate for lung cancer was again highest in Belfast, at 59.8 deaths per 100,000. The Northern Ireland average was 41 per 100,000.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of early diagnosis, said the charity hoped the local data will help doctors and politicians tackle the specific problems in their area.

But she added that the issue is more complicated than being a "postcode lottery".

"While the website highlights that some parts of Northern Ireland have higher rates of cancer survival than others, it is important to remember that this issue is not simply a matter of 'postcode lottery'," she said.

"It's more complicated than that because cancer survival is also linked to other socio-economic factors such as people's awareness and willingness to get symptoms checked out, lifestyle factors that increase their susceptibility to other diseases and whether they go for screening when invited."

Dr Anna Gavin, director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, said the figures again emphasised that smoking and high levels of deprivation provide a common link to the disease.

"Lifestyle is a key factor," she said. "While the figures are not new, it is interesting to see it portrayed in a UK-wide publication and it does mean we do need to be thinking, 'Why is this? What is the cause?'

"We know that a lot of these cancers are tobacco related. If we could continue to stress the importance for people to give up smoking and particularly not to start."

Ms Gavin said treatment of patients here has improved dramatically over the last 15 years, and the rate of survival is improving.

"In 1993 we had 6,500 serious cancers. Now we have 8,500. That is 2,000 more patients diagnosed every year here now than were 15 or 16 years ago. That is largely because of the aging population – people are living longer.

"But that highlights how important it is to have information and good information in order to make informed decisions. This atlas can help us achieve that," she added.

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