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Researchers at Spain´s Centro Nacional de Epidemiología have managed to create a “cancer map”, which not only shows where cancer cases are more prevalent, it also shows inequality across the regions.

Having analysed one million cancer related deaths over a 20 year period, between 1989 and 2008, the information has now been collated and released, the data reveals certain places which are “hot spots”, and for certain types of cancers.

For example the data reveals that the risk of dying from stomach cancer is greater in the Castilla y León, Burgos and Palencia areas, which the experts attribute the increase here to the higher consumption of cured and smoked foods, as well as a lower intake of fruit and vegetables.

The president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, Esteve Fernández, stresses that the maps show relative risks and are not absolute, “You can have triple the risk of dying from a given cancer risk one area, but the absolute risk remains small. Nobody has to move after seeing these maps”, whilst also reminding everybody that the most dangerous activity is smoking, and thus stopping smoking the best preventative action.

The map also sets out the deaths from lung cancer, a total of more than 340,000 in the study period. Areas with higher mortality risk in men are located in Extremadura, western Andalusia (Huelva, Sevilla and Cádiz), Asturias and Cantabria. In women, the greatest risks are in some towns of Pontevedra and Ourense.

Although the distribution of lung cancer is related to the number of smokers, the researchers also point to air pollution. In the case of the Galician people, scientists point to Radon, a radioactive gas that originates naturally from uranium underground. Despite its carcinogenic state, the Ministry of Public Works has two years to draft legislation to reduce the impact of Radon, which, according to data, could be present in excessive amounts in over 300,000 buildings in Spain.

The epidemiologists also reveal that in places located near to open mines, the risk of colon cancer is 9.7% higher than the rest of the country, with an increase of 6.6% in the risk of death for a lung tumour. Examples of these mines were found in the data in León, Palencia, Teruel, Ciudad Real and Córdoba.

Living near to a cement factory apparently carries an additional risk of dying from colorectal cancer, which was shown to have increased by 10% in the case of women, and 7% in the case of men, in villages located more than five kilometres away. For men, the risk of death stomach cancer is also 9% higher.

Breast cancer cases showed an interesting shift in the period of examination, with the “hot spots” in the first ten years being in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, which have recently reduced and seen a takeover in the areas of Huelva, Seville and Cadiz, where the risk of dying from breast cancer is now 10% higher than in the rest of Spain.

However, although the data should be closely monitored, the experts say, the study of breast cancer mortality is now longer valid, largely due to the amount of attention given to that one type of cancer over recent years, which has resulted in early detection and treatment programs resulting in a survival rate now greater than 80%. The experts say that monitoring of the disease, rather than mortality would be a more conclusive activity, but no such data exists.

The scientists also admit that their data is incomplete, as some condition such as bladder cancer, responsible for more than 77,000 deaths, was not fully monitored until relatively recently. Similarly, in addition to smoking, responsible for 50% of tumours, epidemiologists warn of risk to workers the manufacturing of certain industrial chemicals, such as aromatic amines employed in the production of dyes. They also suffer a high persons engaged in the manufacture of paints, dyes, rubber, leather and aluminium risk as well as truck drivers, possibly from exposure to emissions from diesel engines.

One of the most alarming statistics came from the distribution of 105,000 male deaths from prostate cancer. In the first 15 years inequality between the north and south was detected. Galicia was the region with the highest risk, compared to Andalusia which was below the average, “Diabetes may be able to explain the low observed mortality from prostate cancer in Andalusia, since in this region in the period had a much higher mortality rate related to diabetes than in the rest of Spain”.

The researcher Miquel Porta, president of the European Federation of Epidemiology and Professor of Public Health at the Medical Research Institute Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, applauds the new cancer map and points directly to the authorities, “I worry that policies will be implemented”, by the government of Spain, as the “intake of fresh fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of stomach cancer and should not become a luxury”, and so economic policy must also “facilitate healthy eating”.

The atlas reveals that in the last five years studied, the excess risk of dying from lung cancer in women has focused on cities, which the authors point to “the synergy between air pollution and smoking”. Porta calls on the authorities to take action. “If we see that in the urban centres most lung cancer occurs in women, and we know that there is an interaction between smoking and pollution, the answer is to act on smoking and air pollution, creating more pedestrian spaces and green areas”.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45284/

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