Written Answers. - Cancer Deaths.

33.

asked the Minister for Health the total number of cancer deaths in Ireland in (a) the years 1981 to 1984 inclusive and (b) the years 1985 to 1988, inclusive; if the number has increased or decreased; if there is any evidence to suggest an increased incidence of cancer in any particular region in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The most recent year for which the total number of cancer deaths is available is 1987. The number of deaths and the corresponding mortality rates from cancer for each year from 1982 to 1987, inclusive, are set out in the table below:

Deaths from Cancer and Mortality Rates 1982-1987.

Year

Number of Deaths

Mortality Rate per 100,000 population

1982

6,332

182.0

1983

6,471

184.7

1984

6,666

188.9

1985

6,689

188.9

1986*

6,876

194.4

1987*

6,919

195.3

* Data for 1986 and 1987 is provisional and based on year of registration.

Source: Reports on Vital Statistics, Central Statistics Office.

These figures indicate that the annual number of deaths due to cancer has steadily increased during the period 1982 to 1987. The corresponding mortality rates show a parallel rise to 195.3 cancer deaths per 100,000 population in 1987. Some caution must be exercised in interpreting this data since mortality rates are sensitive to alterations in the age structure of the population. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt but that the gradual upward trend in cancer deaths over the last few decades continues and is cause for concern.

There is no evidence to suggest an increased mortality from cancer in any particular geographical region of the country. It is, however, known that an increased risk of cancer is associated with life in urban environments. This association is experienced in all countries, including Ireland, where accurate mortality statistics are collected.

In order to combat cancer successfully an obvious priority is to establish as accurately as possible the incidence of cancer to determine its distribution, prognosis, and probable causes. With these issues in mind, I have set up an expert committee to investigate the best possible means of establishing a National Cancer Registry. This committee will be reporting to me in the very near future, and I hope to be in a position to implement its recommendations shortly thereafter. As the Deputy will be aware, this initiative coincides with the European Year Against Cancer in which Ireland will be playing a full part.