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Study examines cancer levels in Jersey

01 August 2013

A detailed study has been published looking at why certain cancers have significantly higher incidence rates in Jersey than the south-west of England. It examines the major risk factors for these cancers and whether they provide an explanation for the higher rates observed.
The Cancer in Jersey 2013 report was commissioned by Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Turnbull, and produced by Public Health England. This followed a States’ proposition from former Deputy Paul Le Claire (P 144/2011) calling for a study, amid concern about high levels of cancer and the possible role of radon gas in causing cancer.
The report found no evidence to support the need for a more in-depth study. Links to risks from radon were examined and considered to be small with a likelihood that radon alone may cause one lung cancer death every three to four years in Jersey. The study concluded that smoking posed a much higher risk to an individual than exposure to radon alone.

Main findings

The main findings of the report are:
  • higher incidence of certain cancers in the Jersey population can be readily explained by the main risk factors associated with those cancers
  • in an island with high sunshine hours, a legacy of cheap tobacco products and high per capita alcohol consumption, risk factors that are more prevalent in Jersey than SW England, the increased incidence of skin cancer, lung cancer and head and neck cancer is not unexpected
  • those cancers most strongly associated with smoking e.g. squamous cell lung cancer and cancers of the larynx and tongue, have decreased in recent years, corresponding to decreasing smoking rates
  • links to risks from radon were looked at and considered to be small. Smoking poses a much higher risk to an individual than exposure to radon alone
  • as elsewhere in the world the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased and is considered to be due to better diagnostic techniques (better imaging). Deaths from this cancer have not increased
  • the report found no evidence to support the need for a more in-depth study
  • to reduce the burden of cancer in Jersey, Public Health focus should be on reducing smoking prevalence, reducing alcohol consumption (especially those drinking more than recommended amounts) and promoting sun protection messages
Dr Susan Turnbull said "This report is most welcome, though its findings do not surprise me. It confirms and reinforces the accumulated evidence that the high incidence cancers that shorten some Islanders' lives are largely preventable by healthier lifestyle choices: principally stopping smoking, taking precautions to avoid sunburn and excessive sun exposure, and avoiding hazardous alcohol consumption. We each have the opportunity to make choices that alter our personal odds of developing these preventable cancers."

Cancer in Jersey 2013 report (government and administration section)

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