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Ulster's cancer survival rates are better than ever, says report

By Claire Regan

The chances of surviving cancer in Northern Ireland are better than ever before - with hundreds less now dying within five years of diagnosis.

That's one of the conclusions of a wide-ranging study into every diagnosis of cancer - and whether it was survived - in the province over an 11-year period.

The Northern Ireland Cancer Registry today released a major examination of how many cancer cases were diagnosed, and how many people died, within an 11-year period.

The 'Survival of Cancer Patients in Northern Ireland: 1993-2004' study showed that the prevalence of cancer is on the rise in Northern Ireland, with one-third of the population expected to develop some form of it by the age of 75.

But while the number of those dying has also risen, in relative terms the chance of survival has increased.

Professor Roy Spence, a consultant surgeon and chairman of the Council of NICR, described the report as "a window through which we can measure the impact of change".

And Dr Anna Gavin, director of the NICR, predicted that survival rates would continue to improve.

"There are ongoing moves within the Health Service to improve services for cancer patients and reduce waiting times," she said.

"This should improve the treatment of cancer patients and survival. Prevention is, however, still better than cure and people are urged to take simple lifestyle steps to reduce their risk of ever getting cancer."

Belfast, Londonderry and Newry were revealed as cancer hotspots - suffering "significantly higher than expected" levels of the disease because of poverty.

And people living in Northern Ireland's affluent areas are less likely to develop cancer - but more likely to survive if they do.

Researchers looked at a geographical breakdown of cancer diagnoses and survival rates and found that those living in a disadvantaged area were less likely to survive.

Increasing incidences of cancer and deaths in certain areas of Northern Ireland are shown in the report to be in line with deprivation.

The 20% most deprived areas in Northern Ireland have significantly higher levels of cancer, the report found.

The report found that survival is also influenced by affluence - with better chances among richer groups than poor for breast, lung and bowel cancer.

It added that the Belfast, Derry and Newry and Mourne council areas had significantly higher than expected levels of cancer cases and deaths.

It said this was driven by high incidences of lung (in Belfast and Derry), stomach (in Belfast and Newry) and bowel cancer (in Derry and Newry).

The report said this is "likely to be linked to the higher levels of deprivation experienced within these areas and the associated higher levels of tobacco usage".

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie recently released details of the most deprived constituencies to the Assembly and all but one of the worst seven fell into either the Belfast, Derry or Newry areas.

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