“We are going to have a dramatic increase in the number of Canadians who are being diagnosed with cancer,” said Robert Nuttall, the cancer society’s assistant director for cancer control in Toronto. “This is really a reflection of our aging and growing population.”
“We need to start planning now to meet the needs of people who will be diagnosed with cancer in the future,” Nuttall said. “People diagnosed with cancer require supports and services. They’re going to need access to doctors and nurses and diagnostics and treatment facilities. We’re going to have to look at the entire cancer control and care that we’re doing right now.”
In contrast, age-standardized incidence rates, an indicator of individual risk, will not change substantially. Since 2001, the age-adjusted cancer incidence rate for males is declining (0.7 per cent per year) but still increasing in females (0.5 per cent per year).
About half of cancer cases can be prevented with healthy behaviours and policies, Nuttall said.
To reduce cancer risk, the society advises:
Lyle Southam, 64, of Misssissauga, Ont., had a section of his colon removed for late stage cancer followed by chemotherapy and followup tests. He’s been clear for more than 18 months .
Southam said when he heard there’s a 65 per cent chance of living five years after the surgery, he thought about how he could improve the odds. He’s enrolled in a study to look at whether exercise helps reduce recurrence of colon cancer.
“Rather than tell them what I not only think but probably know they should or shouldn’t do, I’ll tell them what I used to do and now what I do and the fact that I’m so damn lucky to be alive and it’s because of the things I’ve changed in my life.”
Smoking continues to be an overwhelming risk factor for cancer, said Dr. Malcolm Moore, an oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.
“I think one of the challenges is that the effects of smoking are not immediate in terms of cancer — it is 25 to 30 years later. In some sense, people may not necessarily see the consequences of their action,” Moore said.
Similarly with melanoma, the effects of chronic sun exposure occur later in life and younger people may feel invulnerable, Moore said.
While tobacco control strategies have been successful, Nuttall suggested upcoming nutrition label changes could help people to understand serving sizes and calories levels and offer another tool to increase awareness and make prevention easier.