Cancer as a disease cannot be classed as one of the young or the old, it occurs pretty much to anyone at any time. To illustrate this point, and somewhat as a proxy, we can use the Causes of Death data that is available from The Flowing Data team, led by Nathan Yau, and I strongly encourage you all to look at what is a very fascinating interactive chart.
The data is based on causes of death in the United States, but is still indicative of when cancer deaths can occur and shows that the rate of occurrence is highly variable between males and females and the age of death.
As the chart shows, children are highly susceptible to succumbing from cancer in comparison with other diseases and causes, drops for both sexes during early adulthood and then rises to peak at around about 60 for women and 70 for men.
And as the commentary on the page says:
“Keep in mind that this shows percentages and not absolute counts. So while the percentage for cancer decreases with age, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people grow impervious. It’s much more likely that with age comes higher susceptibility to other diseases.”1
Which makes the recent Queensland Cancer Council press release all the more disturbing; “Cancers more than triple in Queensland over 31 years”.
The release went into a lot of detail about the types of cancers experienced by citizens in Queensland along with highlighting the highly variable survivability rates that cancer suffers experience.
In itself the release doesn’t tell an untruth, the number of diagnoses of cancer in the state have jumped from 8, 8274 cases in 1982 to 26,335 cases in 2013, but there is something underlying that is a little more interesting than the headline number.
And the interesting point is that in the same time period, the population of Queensland has gone from 2,424,586 people in 1982 to 4,651,912 people in 2013, only a near doubling. Now allowing for a slightly higher population increase of people over 45, which could account for some of the difference, there is still the question of why the incidence rate has tripled, instead of the doubling you’d expect.
Could external factors such as diet, exercise or the twin scourges of alcohol and tobacco be possible causes?
Interestingly for Australia, the consumption of alcohol and tobacco over the last two decades has seen a precipitous fall; adult smoking rates have nearly halved between 1991 and 2013 and alcohol consumption has also fallen from a high of over 12 litres per person to under 10 litres per person, which makes the increase even more intriguing.
Of course there is direction from the likes of the American Cancer Society that better diet and increased exercise are two major ways to decrease a person’s cancer risk, but as we have already shown in earlier issues, diet and exercise are both poor and limited in the western world.
So could it be that this major increase in the incidence of cancer in Australia, and arguably elsewhere, is due to factors such as poor diet and a lack of exercise? Or are there still other factors in our lives and environment that are unbeknownst to us and are the root cause?
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Cassandra Jones – Editor At Large For Holistic Living Magazine
American Cancer Society, Diet and Physical Activity: What is the connection?, accessed 5th March 2016
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia, 2013-14, accessed 6th March 2016
The Department of Health, Tobacco key facts and figures, accessed 6th March 2016
Queensland Cancer Council, Cancers more than triple in Queensland over 31 years, February 15th 2016, accessed 29th February 2016
Queensland Government, Age and sex indicators by local government area (LGA) (a), Queensland, 30 June 2014p, accessed 6th March 2016
Queensland Government, Estimated resident population by local government area (LGA), Queensland, 2004 to 2014p, accessed 6th March 2016
Queensland Government, Historical tables, demography, 1823 to 2008 (Q150 release), accessed 6th March 2016
Wikipedia, Health effects of smoking, accessed 29th February 2016
Wikipedia, List of cancer mortality rates in the United States, accessed 29th February 2016
Wikipedia, Long term effects of alcohol consumption, accessed 29th February 2016
Yau, N, Flowing Data, Causes of Death, accessed 29th February 2016
 Yau, N, Causes of Death
 Queensland Cancer Council, February 15th 2016
 Queensland Government, Historical tables, demography, 1823 to 2008 (Q150 release)
 Queensland Government, Estimated resident population by local government area (LGA), Queensland, 2004 to 2014p
 The Department of Health, Tobacco key facts and figures
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia, 2013-14
 American Cancer Society, Diet and Physical Activity: What is the connection?