The nation's biggest killer should be election issue

Friday 26 October, 2007

The Cancer Council Australia today released its federal election priorities, calling on all parliamentarians to do more to reduce the impact of the nation's biggest killer.

Chief Executive Officer, Professor Ian Olver, said more than 100,000 Australians would be diagnosed with cancer this year and 39,000 Australians would die from cancer, and that the next Australian Government could do more to reduce this toll through national policies and programs.

"The burden of cancer in Australia is reflected in social research showing it is by far the nation's most feared disease," Professor Olver said. "Given cancer's enormous impact and the evidence showing that governments can do much more to reduce the cancer burden, cancer control should be high on the list of priorities for all parties this federal election."

Professor Olver said a third of cancer deaths in Australia could be prevented through measures such as improved tobacco control, expediting the national bowel cancer screening program and extending its target age, and implementing an integrated obesity control strategy.

"The combined effects of population ageing and Australia's obesity epidemic will cause unprecedented increases in cancer incidence and add major strain to Australia's already stressed health system," Professor Olver said. "We need to invest now in cancer prevention measures that will deliver significant health, social and economic returns."

Professor Olver said there were also important opportunities to improve cancer care, particularly for disadvantaged groups such as those in rural and Indigenous communities.

"The recent Senate inquiry into patient travel and accommodation assistance showed how tough it is for cancer patients in remote areas and provided a timely opportunity for federal MPs to commit to national measures to improve the system," he said.