Rui Portugal
Rui Portugal. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

New cases of cancer in Portugal correspond to ⅔ of annual births

Cancers are main cause of premature death in Portugal

World Cancer Day has seen Portugal’s deputy director general of Health stress that the roughly 60,000 new cases of cancer discovered every year correspond to “about two thirds of the country’s births”.

Rui Portugal’s focus, he explains, is on urging the population to adopt healthy lifestyles.

This may inadvertently offend sufferers who have contracted cancer in spite of healthy lifestyles, but this is the ‘official message’ pedalled by health chiefs everywhere.

At the opening of the commemoration ceremony of the World Cancer Day, promoted by the General Directorate of Health (DGS), through the National Programme for Oncologic Diseases, which is taking place at Infarmed (Lisbon), Rui Portugal said that estimates point to the appearance of about 60,000 new cases of oncological disease per year, which corresponds to the size of the population of the municipalities of Portimão or Figueira da Foz.

“The increased life expectancy of the Portuguese, the exposure to carcinogens and less healthy lifestyles justify the progressive increase in the number of new cases,” said Rui Portugal, arguing that “knowing, monitoring and intervening in oncological disease is a health priority in Portugal”.

Again, this is the official mantra, in spite of the fact that getting seen by a GP and being swiftly dealt with in the SNS health system is these days a challenge (particularly for people whose energy levels may be compromised).

Cancers now are “the main cause of premature death in Portugal”, Rui Portugal admits, calculating they account for “over 100,000 years of potentially lost life”.

Around 28,000 deaths are registered every year, which is the equivalent (to the population) of the municipality of Santiago do Cacém, Anadia or Tavira,” he said, commenting that it was as if these communities were “disappearing every year”.

“Naturally, these figures, this information has to concern Portuguese society and the health authorities,” he told his audience.

The country has reason to be proud over the five-year survival rates in some cancers (namely prostate, breast, cervical) which “have been better than the European Union average in recent reports”, but it still boils down to the fact that in every 90,000 new Portuguese citizens born every year, 60,000 come under a shadow – at a time when the population is steadily shrinking.

Rui Portugal’s ‘solution’? “Inequalities that exist in society, whether due to geographical determinants or determinants of individuals, families and communities must naturally be monitored”.

“If the exposure in situations of work environment can and should have decisive and rapid intervention, others require greater knowledge and have greater difficulty in producing results and improvements in health gains”, he said, suggesting the main public health policies for controlling cancer should focus on “determinants such as tobacco, alcohol consumption, obesity”.

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