20 Nov 2017

Rate of cancer in Pacific described as a 'hidden epidemic'

2:11 pm on 20 November 2017

The rate of cancer in the region in the Pacific is being described as a "hidden epidemic" by the authors of new research.

A group of public health researchers, spearheaded by Massey University's Sunia Foliaki, says cancer is often boxed in with NCD epidemic gripping the region.

However, he said this has led to cancer being overshadowed by other, more visible, diseases and programmes - like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Dr Foliaki said cancer is one of the region's biggest killers, but little is known about it and efforts to understand it are under-resourced.

"Cancer is the probably second-leading cause of death and what's concerning to me is I'd probably say that at least just over a third of these cancers are very, very much preventable, affordable, but people are dying from these," he said.

Cancer cells spreading and growing through the body via red blood cells.

Cancer cells spreading and growing through the body via red blood cells. Photo: 123RF

Sunia Foliaki said there isn't quality data to monitor the cancer situation, and treatment and prevention programmes are often under-resourced.

But he adds that greater collaboration, such as sharing resources and coordinating expertise and programmes, across small countries could have great benefits.

However, first, he said more needs to be understood.

"We are not sure of the magnitude of the problem. We know it's causing a lot of problems. And if you don't understand the magnitude, if you don't understand the basic data it hampers prevention and control strategies or even research and things like that. So you need all those things to understand the magnitude of the problem."

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Photo: 123RF