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Cancer's top five killers

From Saturday's Globe and Mail



Roughly 85 per cent of lung-cancer cases can be linked to one social evil - smoking. Traditionally, more men than women have smoked. In 1965, for instance, 61 per cent of males over the age of 15 smoked, compared with only 38 per cent of women. But in the latter part of the 1960s, it became increasingly fashionable for women to smoke. At the same time, medical studies were showing that smoking caused lung cancer and a host of other health problems. These two facts led to contradictory trends. Older male smokers were starting to quit, while a growing number of younger women were picking up the habit. In fact, smoking among women didn't start to decline significantly until the early 1980s.

Men killed daily by lung cancer: 29.31


Today, about 22 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women smoke. But lung cancer is one of those diseases that takes decades to develop, and that means the current cancer statistics are a reflection of what was happening in society many years ago. Lungcancer rates among women are continuing to rise. But the rates for men are already on the decline, because they were the first to kick the habit. Another significant trend to watch is teenaged smoking. An equal number of males and females 15 to 19 now smoke-ó 18 per cent. In a few decades, if those figures donít change, an equal number of men and women will be stricken with the deadly disease.

Women killed daily by lung cancer: 25.36



Colorectal cancer is a lethal killer, but it doesn't have to be. Early detection can nip it in the bud. The problem is that " it involves a part of the body a lot of people don't like to discuss," says Tony Fields of the Alberta Cancer Board in Edmonton. The tests themselves aren't pleasant. The first is called a fecal-occult blood test. The patient collects small samples of his/ her stool over a period of three days. The samples are then sent to a lab and checked for traces of blood. If blood is detected, then the patient is usually booked for the second level of testing - a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, a flexible optical scope is inserted up the rectum and the doctor searches for potentially

cancerous growths. In some cases, the tumour ( if limited in size and location) can be cut out right away. The cure rate is above 90 per cent in cases where the cancer is still confined to the bowel. But if it has spread well beyond the bowel, the survival rate is less than 5 per cent. Several provinces are now working on pilot projects to get full-scale colorectal screening under way. But Dr. Fields thinks " it's a scandal" that it has taken the provinces so long to implement these programs.

Men killed daily by colorectal cancer: 12.6


There was a steady but gradual rise in breast-cancer cases from 1977 to 1992. Since then, the rates have levelled off a bit. Researchers arenít quite sure why the rates inched up, but a wide variety of lifestyle changes could be to blame, says Pamela Goodwin of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. " Things like deferring your first baby until you are older, not having babies, or being less physically active ... are all risk factors."

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