By Evie Andreou
MORE than 30,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in Cyprus between 1998 and 2011, Health minister Philippos Patsalis said yesterday, speaking at a press conference to announce the awareness campaign against cancer.
Patsalis said that the “We Can” campaign to mark World Cancer Day on February 4, is being co-organised by the health ministry, the Bank of Cyprus Oncology centre, Europa Donna Cyprus, the Cyprus anti-cancer society and the Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (PASYKAF).
“Dealing with the disease is a long and difficult struggle,” Patsalis said.
According to the World Health Organisation, in 2008 a total of 7.6 million people died worldwide from cancer, while up to 2030 the number is expected to rise to 11 million, he said.
“This rates cancer as the second most frequent cause of death after heart conditions,” the minister added.
The campaign, he said, will be based on four pillars – prevention, early detection, treatment and palliative care – and that its central message will be to urge people to quit smoking since 90 per cent of lung cancer is caused exclusively as a result of smoking.
“The number of smokers is so big that smoking is described by the WHO as an epidemic on a global level,” Patsalis said.
It is estimated, he added, that in the next 25 years the annual number of deaths caused by smoking will reach 10 million.
“Included in this number are passive non-smokers who were affected by diseases caused from exposure to cigarette smoke,” Patsalis said.
He added that his ministry is implementing measures that will decrease the number of smokers, like the ‘stop smoking’ clinics that are accessible to everyone since they are free.
Between 2013 and 2014, Patsalis said, the ‘stop smoking’ clinics have responded to 495 requests and due to the great demand, they have been restructured and expanded to all districts.
The ministry is also implementing ‘stop smoking’ programmes to army camps and higher education institutions.
The health ministry has proceeded to draw up a strategy for smoking control based on WHO and EU guidelines, Patsalis said.
“This strategy is based on prevention, treatment, the promotion of a smoke free environment with legislative and other measures,” he said.
He added that his ministry is also preparing a legislation amendment to regulate electronic cigarette smoking.
Dr. Anna Achilleoudi, chairwoman of PASYKAF and representative of the cancer associations in Cyprus, said that knowledge is power and that since smoking is the number one cause of various cancers the lectures that will be given during the awareness campaign will be to stop smoking as a preventive measure against cancer.
According to figures released by the Cyprus News Agency, cancer cases in Cyprus have more than doubled since 1998 and have been growing at a rate of 150 per year, killing over 5,000 people annually.
According to the same data, from under 1,600 new cases in 1998 and until 2000, the number of new cases each year has been gradually increasing and now stands at 3,000 or more.
The most common types are breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
The lectures will take place from January 27 to February 3 in all towns. For more information call the Health ministry on 22 605411.