A Geography of Cancer
A long article that gives us a 'geography of cancer' - that one word 'cancer' is used to describe many different diseases with similarities in that they all include abnormal growth of cells. Here we get a run down of just some of the more common types and their incidence around the world.
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WE THINK of cancer as one disease. In fact, it is more than 100 different diseases, affecting all parts of the body with different causes and outcomes. The incidence varies widely across the world, influenced by diet, smoking and drinking, infection, climate and social factors. So what is this global pattern, and what light does it throw on the development of cancer?
This is the most common cancer in women in the developed world. Every year more than 11,000 Australian women are diagnosed with this disease, more than 30 a day, and rates here have increased by 40% over 25 years. Worldwide more than 1 million cases are diagnosed every year. The rise is thought to be driven by changing patterns of child rearing. Women are delaying childbirth, having smaller families and spend less time breastfeeding, all of which increase the risks. About 2500 women die from the disease in Australia each year — 16% of all female cancer deaths.
The highest incidence in the world is in Egypt, where it is the most common cancer. The cause is endemic schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease contracted through tainted water. In Australia, bladder cancer is the seventh-most common cancer in men, who make up about three-quarters of the 2000 new cases a year. The causes in the developed world are smoking and exposure to industrial chemicals.
This is a disease of poverty. It is one of the few cancers caused by a virus — the human papilloma virus — which is transmitted through sex. It is most common in women living in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, India and South-East Asia. Those countries are not affluent enough to have pap smear screening programs in place. Pap screening is really effective in preventing death from cervical cancer. According to Cancer Council Victoria director David Hill, prevention in these countries will depend on access to the vaccine developed by Professor Ian Frazier. In Australia, about 700 to 800 women are diagnosed each year and there are more than 200 deaths