Cancer incidence in Ireland is 85 per cent above the European region average and 43 per cent above the EU.
The incidence of prostate cancer in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) is the highest of all the 30 European countries and has also been reported to be more than 60 per cent higher than the EU average (according to the National Cancer Registry Ireland).
In addition to prostate cancer, Ireland has the highest incidence rate of ovarian cancer in Western Europe, as well as higher incidence rates of colorectal, lung, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, anaplastic thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancers compared to the European average.
Mortality rates for ovarian cancer in Ireland are the highest in Europe. Irish female colorectal cancer incidence was 15 per cent higher than the EU average and in males, it was 11 per cent higher.
In 2006, the RoI had the second-highest incidence of breast cancer in Europe, next to Belgium.
According to the European Cancer Observatory figures, Ireland has the fourth-highest breast cancer mortality rate of 30 European countries. Ireland also has the highest incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (for females) in all 27 EU Member States.The HSE has noted that if the occurrence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma continues to rise at the current rate, it is estimated that it will be as common as breast or lung cancer by 2025.Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings, as documented by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, was that between 1994 and 2004 incidence rates for chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia (the most common form of leukaemia) were 53.5 per cent higher for males and 53.1 per cent higher for females in the RoI compared to Northern Ireland.Incredibly, the report highlighted that male incidence rates increased in the Republic by 2.8 per cent per year during 1994-2004 while remaining static in Northern Ireland. Equally disturbing is that since 2004, the National Cancer Registry no longer report the differences in this disease, instead providing a mean of the combined incidence difference for all types of leukaemia, which for 2009 was 29.6 per cent higher in the RoI compared to NI.
This method of reporting only acts to hide the astonishing differences in the burden of this disease between the two regions. The current All Ireland Cancer Atlas report provides information on cancer prevalences between the RoI and NI; the major differences were not confined however to leukaemia.
The report stated: “The risk of developing many of the cancers presented was higher in the RoI than in NI. The risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma, leukaemia, bladder, pancreas and brain/central nervous system cancers was significantly higher for both sexes in the RoI. For men, the risk of prostate cancer was higher in the RoI and, for women, cancer of the oesophagus and cervix.”
Furthermore, the authors concluded that: “There was a marked geographical variation in the risk of some common cancers… the most consistent geographical distribution of cancer risk was seen for three cancers (pancreas, brain/central nervous system and leukaemia) which showed an increasing gradient of risk from North East to South West.”
The report documents that the risk for bladder cancer was up to 14 per cent higher in the RoI, pancreatic cancer up to 22 per cent, skin cancer up to 18 per cent, prostate cancer 29 per cent, oesophageal cancer up to 8 per cent, brain cancer up to 20 per cent and cancer of the cervix and uterus up to 11 per cent higher in the RoI compared to Northern Ireland.
Similarly, the Institute of Public Health’s All-Ireland study by Balanda and Wilde documented significantly increased mortality from these diseases in the RoI compared to NI, including disease resulting from endocrine disorders, immune disorders, neurological disorders, metabolic disorders, hormone-related cancers, musculoskeletal diseases and bone diseases such as arthritis. For example, mortality from diabetes was 470 per cent higher, endocrine and metabolic disorders (350 per cent) rheumatoid arthritis (277 per cent) and diseases of the musculoskeletal system (228 per cent) in the RoI compared to NI.
These differences are remarkable and clearly suggest that the population in the RoI are exposed to an environmental contaminant that is contributing to increased burdens of disease and cancer that is not present in Northern Ireland.
It is acknowledged that fluoride exposure can contribute to many if not all of these diseases. This clearly suggests that fluoridation may be directly contributing to increased cancer incidence and disease burdens in the RoI.
These latter findings are particularly relevant to Ireland as, according to the Journal of Psychiatry Ireland, it has the highest prevalence of depressive disorders in Europe.
According to the WHO, the cancer incidence in Ireland is 85 per cent above the mean of the European Region and the Institute of Public Health have documented that the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the Republic of Ireland is 300 per cent above that of non-fluoridated Northern Ireland.
It is also relevant to note in this instance that the prevalence of diabetes in the Republic of Ireland is 60 per cent higher than in non-fluoridated Northern Ireland. The prevalence of hypertension is 30 per cent higher in RoI compared to NI.
The prevalence of coronary heart disease is 40 per cent higher in RoI compared to NI and the HSE has reported that over 725,000 in the RoI suffer from a neurological condition.
Dr Philip Michael,
Irish Doctors Environmental Association,
Bandon, Co Cork.
• References on request