Scottish Government
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Health in Scotland 2007

Scots are being urged to take steps to avoid preventable deaths - including some cancers - by Scotland's Chief Medical Officer.

To accompany his third annual report - focusing this year on the main causes of death in Scotland and how these can be prevented - Dr Harry Burns has recorded a cancer prevention podcast.

Available on the Scottish Government website, the podcast outlines how to help yourself reduce your risk of developing cancer and includes advice on screening to increase early detection.

Dr Burns said:

"Coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer are the biggest causes of death in Scotland. Deaths from alcohol-related liver disease in Scotland are rising faster than almost anywhere else in the world. Tragically, thousands of Scots are dying from these conditions years earlier than they should.

"I estimate around 5,000 lives could be saved in Scotland each year if we followed simple steps to avoid known risk factors. What may surprise people is that a significant proportion of these avoidable deaths are from cancer.

"Many of the thousands of lives lost to or blighted by cancer in Scotland each year could be saved by simple steps to prevent or detect early."

If current trends do not change, the number of bowel cancer diagnoses is set to rise from 3,412 in 2005 to 5,116 each year from 2016-2020 (a rise of almost 50 per cent); breast cancers from 3,998 to 4,886 (a 22 per cent rise) and prostate from 2,420 to 3,207 (a 33 per cent rise).

Deaths from bowel and breast cancer are projected to remain relatively stable (1,539 bowel cancer deaths in 2007 to 1,575 each year between 2015-2019, and 1,062 breast cancer deaths in 2007 to 1,021 annually between 2015-2019).

A large rise in prostate cancer deaths is expected; from 793 in 2007 to 1,249 each year from 2015-2019 - an increase of 58 per cent.

Dr Burns added:

"These cancer diagnoses are not all inevitable. Lives can be saved if people know how to help prevent cancer. For example, the link between smoking and lung cancer is now irrefutable. That's the only one of the so-called 'Big Four' cancers of lung, bowel, breast and prostate where we expect deaths and diagnoses to fall.

"We are making progress in reducing some cancer deaths, but with the average age of the Scottish population increasing, the number of new cancers in Scotland is increasing year-on-year.

"But there is now mounting evidence to show you can take steps to prevent some cancers - everything from eating your five fruit and veg each day and not smoking to avoiding sunburn. In fact, the World Health Organisation estimates at least a third of all cancer diagnoses internationally could be prevented.

"I would urge Scots to think of cancer as a disease that is, to a great extent, preventable. By spending two minutes online watching my podcast you can find out about the steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing this terrible disease."

Related Information

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/11/26155748/0

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