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NY Cancer Diagnoses Up, Deaths Down

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NY Cancer Diagnoses Up, Deaths Down

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Nearly 3,000 fewer New Yorkers died of cancer last year compared to a decade ago, according to the state's new draft cancer plan.

The draft report obtained by the Associated Press also shows nearly 7,000 more cases of cancer were diagnosed last year compared to a decade earlier, led by prostate cancer and breast cancer. The state Health Department attributes the trends mainly to early and better detection through screenings and advanced treatment, which along with goals to reduce smoking, indoor tanning and obesity are meant to keep cutting the death rate.

"Data show that 65 percent of all individuals diagnosed with cancer in the years from 2004-2008 survived," the report said, citing National Cancer Institute statistics with particular gains among children. "Five- and 10-year survival rates for all children younger than age 15 diagnosed with cancer improved from 61 percent in the late '70s to 88.5 percent by 2002."

The New York findings show a 7 percent decrease in cancer deaths statewide in a decade to an estimated 34,540 last year, while diagnoses increased 7 percent, to 103,340.

National data suggest a 14 percent increase in new diagnoses and 7 percent rise in deaths at the same time. The National Cancer Institute reports an estimated 1,344,164 new cancer cases and 533,080 recorded deaths from the disease in 2000. The American Cancer Society estimated, based on preliminary data, 1,529,560 new diagnoses and 569,490 deaths in 2010. Though deaths increased, those data show a lower mortality rate from the disease because the U.S. population grew by 27 million.

New York's 2011-2016 Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan calls for evidence-based environmental health initiatives to reduce exposure to carcinogens, while noting some traditional health culprits including asbestos, mold, carbon monoxide, radon, lead paint, radiation, pesticides and unsafe drinking water. It also stresses the need for continued reductions in smoking and tanning, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

But some vocal critics say the report that will direct the state's efforts for the next five years ignores some of the biggest threats, failing to warn against common environmental threats including dioxins in food and the air New Yorkers breathe.

"It's underdeveloped in this proposal," said Dr. David Carpenter, director of the state University at Albany's Institute for Health and the Environment and a former Health Department official. "Dioxin doesn't appear in this document."

The National Cancer Institute's 2009-2010 cancer trends progress report concluded the most common route for human exposure to dioxins is eating, particularly animal fats from meat, full-fat dairy products and fatty fish. The chemicals are produced from incomplete combustion, in burning waste, from industrial processes like metal refining and paper bleaching, and as contaminants in some insecticides, herbicides, wood preservatives, and in cigarette smoke. Releases have decreased 80 to 90 percent over 30 years from stricter regulation, and levels in the general U.S. population are low, though dioxins break down slowly, the NCI reported.

One dioxin is a known cause of cancer in people, and others are classified as probable human carcinogens based on animal studies, Carpenter said.

State Health Department spokeswoman Diane Mathis emphasized the cancer plan is a draft, and the environmental and health section will be among the areas that will be expanded. A revised draft is planned for the end of summer, and the NCI has been identified as an important information source that will be incorporated appropriately, she said.

Donald Hassig, director of the Cancer Action NY and an advocate for cracking down on carcinogens in what he calls politically well-protected commercial interests, said he twice took signs into a supermarket in northern New York warning of carcinogens in animal fats and was asked both times to leave, the second time by police. He also wrote to Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah with concerns about the draft report.

Mathis noted that Hassig is part of the cancer consortium, made up of nearly 200 health care providers, officials and advocates, who were invited to file responses to the department's draft report using a standard form, but he had not responded that way.

"It's a very collaborative stakeholder process," she said.

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