Lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking could be contributing to Ireland’s unusually high cancer rates, according to the Irish Cancer Society.
It comes after it emerged that Ireland had the highest incidence rate of cancer in the EU in 2020 – more than 26% higher than the EU average.
Meanwhile, cancer deaths in Ireland were around 11% above the EU average in 2020, according to a recent OECD report.
Confirming the numbers at an event on the future of cancer care, the director of the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, Prof Deirdre Murray said it is unclear why the figures are so high.
She said it may be because the country was relatively late in introducing certain screening programmes; however, it may also be because the country is better at capturing figures than elsewhere.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Irish Cancer Society (ICS) spokesperson Rachel Morrow said over 40,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Ireland – with about 24,000 diagnosed with invasive cancers.
She said the reasons behind Ireland’s rising cancer rates are “complex” – but warned that the Government must start planning for higher figures in the future.
“There are lots and lots of different reasons and I think we need to focus on perhaps one of them, which is lifestyle factors,” she said.
“I think it is certainly one of the reasons and we know that four in ten cancers can be prevented.
“We really need to focus on addressing that number. Making sure more people are empowered to, I suppose, take ownership of their health, but support people as well in doing things like quitting smoking, reducing the amount they drink and eating healthily.
“I don’t think that any of those things are easy to do. Some of them aren’t cheap to do and I do think we really need to focus on that and support people.”
Ms Morrow said the ICS would like to see plans to add cancer warnings to alcohol brought forward, alongside measures to address the number of young people transitioning from vaping into smoking.
She also encouraged all parents to do everything they can to reduce preventable cancers – including by ensuring their children get the HPV vaccine.
“Doing things that will reduce our likelihood of getting cancer – but of course, there are other factors at play as well,” she said.