Cancer prevention and fight against inequities in care. These are the two main themes of World Cancer Day. In Italy there are about 3,600,000 people with a diagnosis of cancer. In percentage terms, this is 5.7% of the population. The median survival five years after diagnosis is 59.4% among men and 65% among women. Luckily survival rates continue to improve over time. In Italy survival values are substantially in line with those of northern European countries and the United States.
What are the most common cancers and their survival rates?
The most “curable” are breast cancer which has a survival rate of 87.8% and prostate cancer at 91.1%. Cancer is the second cause of death in Italy, after cardiovascular disease and before Covid.
According to statistics, approximately one in 2 men and one in 3 women will fall ill with cancer during their lifetime. The most common tumors are those of the breast (14.6%) and colorectal (11.6%). In third place is lung cancer (10.9%) and prostate cancer (9.6%).
Cancer prevention: 4 out of 10 cancer cases could be prevented
Il 40% of all cancers can be prevented changing lifestyles. The five golden rules are:
- healthy diet and moderate and regular physical activity to maintain an ideal weight;
- quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke;
- limit the consumption of alcohol;
- protect yourself from the sun’s rays;
- protect yourself from cancer-causing infections such as HPV.
Cancer prevention and reduction of inequities are the two themes of World Cancer Day
Data tell us that in Europe 32% of cancer deaths are associated with poverty and low education. Fortunately in Italy the situation is better. Here the problem remains the bureaucracy, but also the shortage of personnel. Less educated and poorer people are more inclined to follow incorrect lifestyles, often skip screening, have more difficulty accessing health systems and too often arrive at the diagnosis of cancer at an already advanced stage.
These disparities are less evident in countries that have universal healthcare systems like ours, capable of guaranteeing treatment for everyone. Italy must bridge the gap in adherence to screening programs that still exists between North and South.
Here’s what to ask governments
This – according to the organizers – is the year to question the status quo and help reduce the difficulty of care. Is critical:
- educate the public about cancer prevention and equip health professionals with the skills and knowledge to deal not only with treatment but also with patients;
- strengthen primary health care delivery in communities;
- address through policies and programs some of the social and economic factors that can adversely affect people’s health;
- increase the resources – i.e. both money and people – devoted to cancer research and monitor the burden of cancer nationwide to more effectively shape our investments;
- implement country-specific cancer prevention and control plans that address each country’s unique needs and resources.