Several times over the past couple of years I have been asked where I source information about cancer... actually I go to the Public Health Agency of Canada web site where there is a Surveillance and Risk Assessment Division web site for which I have left a link below on this post. Today I want to focus attention on an interesting trend in Canada, that is probably duplicated in the USA...
CANCER RATES INCREASE FROM WEST TO EAST!
With the exception of the Inuit population in the Nunavut Region, Nova Scotia has the highest rate of all cancer in the country. This trend is true when you look at the rates of cancer for all age groups, and especially for those from 60 thru 64 who understand this situation very deeply...
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THIS SITUATION MORE THOROUGHLY!
We think we know that cancer depends on the genetic make up of the individual... but also, in a significant way, the environment in which the individual lives makes an enormous difference. If this is the case, and we know that the prevailing wind across the country is from west to east, isn't there a large question that needs to be asked... its like the 800 pound gorilla in our province!
Why are we accepting the high levels of pollution and carcinogens in our air from the west without question?
The map below demonstrates the trend to higher cancer incidence rates from west to east. If you want a better view of the map, just click on it, and it will enlarge for you... to reverse back to the blog, just hit the back arrow in the top left of your screen.
For those of you not familiar with our geography, and our provincial layout, the boot-shaped, dark brown province on the east coast is Nova Scotia. We are directly east of the state of Maine, and the city of Boston is just an hour by plane from Halifax.
The chart below is the source of the map data above. The provinces are listed from east to west, and here Nova Scotia is listed with 436 cancer patients per 100,000 population. Please understand that none of these data include skin cancer. Again, click on the chart to see it clearly:
The thrust of my comments so far probably argue toward the issue of environmental pollution including carcinogens as being the culprit in the high rate of cancer in the east. There is also the heritage factor... most Nova Scotians are descendants of Northern Europeans, particularly the fair skinned Irish and Scotish immigrants prevalent in the 1800s. But that would lead one to skin cancers... which are not part of the data. So, I suspect that we are back to the pollution, since we are all eating food that is thoroughly checked for carcinogens. While I understand that this is a simplistic way to look at it... I believe that being too deep in data has not gotten us anywhere. And we all know the Einstein Theory on Insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
Of course, I don't have answers to all these questions, but as I find them, I am likely to post them here. I have been pointing out in past posts that the people running for election in Canada and the USA don't ever seem to have a position on Cancer... is it perhaps because this is a Pandora's box? Could we find out that the environmental problems we have due to the unfettered industrialization of the globe are much deeper than simply global warming? Would be have to be more aggressive with the approval process of the foods we put in our body... why is it that we only investigate the impact of drugs or objects we put in our bodies... generally, why do we have more cancer in Nova Sc0tia than anywhere else in Canada, and perhaps North America... you know what I mean...
Here in Nova Scotia, we are facing one hell of a time with our health care system. Mostly, in my opinion we are capable of excellent health care in the Halifax area today... the system is working well, with emergent and critical care being very strong. This is because the population density enables the efficient use of medical services up-to-and-including very high tech solutions, some of which are unavailable in many areas of North America.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in the province's areas that are sparcly populated, which in my book includes all areas of Nova Scotia outside what is called HRM, when considering critical mass needs for good quality health care. Also, I believe that the future will put more pressure on the system both in and outside HRM, as our population ages, and is not replaced by more vibrant population that is footing the bill through their taxes. Nova Scotia is getting older, fast!
The risk of cancer goes up with age... 45% of all Canadian men will be challenged by a cancer in their life time. The data is similar for women. If we extend this to the population in Nova Scotia, it is probable that our expectation rate is higher! So what are we doing about it?
We are treating the symptoms, at best. We have a state-of-the-art PET/CT scanner in Halifax now. We will soon need a cyclotron (at a cost of around $6million) to give us a stable source of radio-isotopes so the PET can have uninterrupted use... and so we can use proton emission cancer treatments some day. We have a couple of MRIs and several CTs and Scanners; and Nuclear Cameras that are used in diagnosis of cancer (among other ailments). We have very capable physicians that are capable of utilizing all of these systems along with the radiation treatment planning computers and treatment sources. We have several chemo therapy centers... like Yarmouth, Truro and Sydney. All of this is admirable, but it is not getting at the front end of the cancer diseases... prevention!
There does not seem to be a government or societal effort to reduce the environmental sources of cancer. It took years, for example to do something with the Sydney Tar Ponds... and we can't be certain it will be effective in reducing cancer clusters in that area. What about the fact that in Nova Scotia we have to have our hand on the fuel nozzle while we pump gas into our cars, keeping our breathing apparatus close to the aerosol pollution backing up from the car's tank... There does not seem to be an adequate or effective plan to reduce cancer through education. I lifted this two paragraph statement from the same source as the above maps...
Go ahead, read it... all you need to do is click on the paragraph and it will grow to the point where you can read it. I actually suspect that the leaders of the government don't want you to, because it would then draw into question all of the other things that they seem to focus on when they campaign for office. If we elect them to reduce cancer, even by 10%... imagine the impact. Not only will there be less funerals... the cost of health care will go down substantially!
In North America it is estimated that 50% of all health care costs go toward the care of people in the last year of life! In Canada, cancer is the second most prevalent cause of death... if we could reduce that death rate by 10 to 45%, imagine the impact on health care costs. Health care is over 9% of the GDP... 50% is spent in the last year of people's lives! That is a lot of money that could be spent on education, infrastructure and so on.
But we are not even asking the questions about cancer... and how to diagnose it; treat it; live with it; and perhaps prevent it!
It is the prevention that I want to come back to now... remember the map up above. Remember that the cancer rates increase from west to east. That points a large finger at pollution, particularly the pollution that is air born and contains carcinogens. Shouldn't we be pointing at those sources and trying to have them controlled, shut down or cause them to pay for our cancer!
Much of this material was sourced from the following web address. You can click on the link, and get to this and much more information.
It is my opinion that we have to change the way that we are approaching many issues that are societal in nature. Clearly, there are issues that impact the whole population, but are driven by a relatively small portion of it. We should respect people's rights, unless they are impinging on the rights of everyone else. There are issues for which we have been trying the socially and politically correct solutions... clearly they are not working. It is time perhaps to find leadership that will have the intestinal fortitude to take on carcinogen type sources of pollution, smoking, obesity, and other clear causes of cancer and other health care costs.
I look forward to your thoughts...