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Australia NSW report predicts rise in liver, stomach cancer
  The World Today - Wednesday, 2 May , 2007 12:43:00 Reporter: Lauren Harte
ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Cancer Council is predicting that there will be a surge in liver and stomach cancer cases in New South Wales over the next 20 years.
A report by the council says these types of cancer are more common among certain migrant groups.
And it's now shifted its focus to prevention campaigns targeting high-risk minority groups, as Lauren Harte reports.
LAUREN HARTE: The new Cancer Council report looked at cancer rates in New South Wales from 1991 to 2001 and compared cancer incidence in migrant groups compared to those born in Australia.
It found that liver and stomach cancers are expected to rise, particularly among the State's largest growing migrant groups.
The Cancer Council's CEO is Doctor Andrew Penman.
Dr Penman, do we know why this prediction of a rise in liver and stomach cancer has occurred?
ANDREW PENMAN: Well, it's because the composition of the migrant inflows is changing. I mean, we're changing from a predominantly Anglo-Celtic inflow to New South Wales, to one which is dominated by Asian immigration and Vietnamese, Italian.
LAUREN HARTE: Most cases of stomach cancer are caused by an infection that's more prevalent amongst people from Asian and some European countries.
Dr Penman says liver cancer is caused mainly by the hepatitis B and C viruses, and around a third of the 15,000 carriers of hepatitis B in Australia's migrant population are likely to die from the disease.
For those born in Australia, prostate, breast and bowel cancers are the most common types.
Dr Andrew Penman says being able to pinpoint high-risk groups in the community is significant in the overall fight against cancer.
(To Andrew Penman) If we can now isolate members of the community that are more susceptible to developing liver and stomach cancer, does that help those trying to find a cure to cancer?
ANDREW PENMAN: Well, absolutely, because while there are pract ... this is a very practical report with some practical implications. Understanding these differences and why they occur does give us some clues about the causes of cancer, and if we understand the causes we can, for instance, now that we understand the cause of cervical cancer, we now have a cervical cancer vaccine, which is a very fundamental approach to solving the cancer problem.
LAUREN HARTE: Professor Jim Bishop from the New South Cancer Institute says that's a possibility, but he stresses that it's not easy.
JIM BISHOP: I think that these cancers are still quite difficult to treat, liver cancer in particular. And the answer there is to look at the causative factor, which is hepatitis B in many cases. And so I think there would be hope there of having a similar approach.
LAUREN HARTE: Dr Andrew Penman says the results also highlight the need for adequate services to deal with more cases of stomach and liver cancer over the next two decades.
He says better health campaigns are now needed, targeting high-risk groups with the help of vaccinations and screenings.
ANDREW PENMAN: A person who's an immigrant has basically the same number of cancers in their lifetime as an Australian-born person, but they're different cancers.
So there'll be more bowel cancer and prostate cancer, for instance, in an Australian-born, but less in overseas-born.
So we just need to make sure that the composition of our health services is balanced in regard to specialties if we're to treat the diversity of cancer in our community.
ELEANOR HALL: That's Dr Andrew Penman, the CEO of the Cancer Council, ending Lauren Harte's report.
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