Causes of cancer blatantly obvious | The Jackal

29 Nov 2012

Causes of cancer blatantly obvious

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

New Zealand has one of the highest death rates from cancer in the Asia-Pacific region, a report shows.


The report shows New Zealand has the highest rates of deaths from bowel cancer and from breast cancer in the Asia-Pacific region. Our bowel cancer death rate is more than 50 per cent greater than Australia's. But New Zealand has the region's second-lowest cervical cancer death rate; only Australia's is lower. Fiji's is nearly 9 times higher than New Zealand's. Several Pacific countries are not included in the report.

Dr Cox said no one knew why New Zealand's cancer death rate was higher than Australia's. "It is unfortunate we haven't been able to control cancer mortality to the same extent that Australia has managed to, which means we have to re-evaluate where we are going again."

Nobody knows why New Zealand's cancer death rate is so high? C'mon Brian Cox. In terms of our high levels of bowel cancer, New Zealanders eat lots of meat, meat that's usually preserved with large amounts of nitrates. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic compounds. Many studies have categorically proven the link between meat preservatives and cancer.1

But it's not just additives that are the problem, it's what we're eating. High fat diets have also been linked with many health issues including breast cancer. Dietary fat promotes tumorigenesis, especially for mammary tumors. A low fat diet with lots of vegetables has been scientifically proven to be beneficial at reducing the risk of cancer.2

So we know that dietary factors are one of the main contributors to New Zealand's high rate of cancer. But there's also the fact that our environment is polluted with many cancer causing compounds.

The current Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, was recently quoted as saying our 100% Pure campaign should be taken with a pinch of salt, and he's right. New Zealand is not a clean and green country even in relative terms to other countries. Unfortunately there are huge amounts of pollutants discharged into the environment and much of this waste is in areas that Kiwis regularly use recreationally. There is also a lack of information available to tell the public where that danger is, and that means people are often exposed to cancer causing substances.

There's approximately 10,060,000 metric tons of waste discharged yearly from pulp and paper mills into New Zealand waterways and many of the compounds in that waste are known to be highly carcinogenic.3 Air pollution is also another major factor.4 That's why the highest rates of cancer in New Zealand are located around where pulp and paper mills operate or have operated in the past.

So there's two reasons for why New Zealand has such a high rate of cancer... Two reasons Professor Cox should have been aware of.

  1. Carroll, K. K. (1975) Experimental evidence of dietary factors and hormone-dependent cancers. Cancer Res 35:3374-3383.
  2. So, F. V., Guthrie, N., Chambers, A. F. and Carroll, K. K. (1997) Inhibition of proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 human breast cancer cells by flavonoids in the presence and absence of excess estrogen.
  3. McLeay DJ. Aquatic toxicity of pulp and paper mill effluent (1987) A review. Environment Canada. Ottawa, Report EPS 4/PF/1,191.
  4. Colin L. Soskolne and Lee E. Sieswerda (2010) Chronic Diseases in Canada – Cancer risk associated with pulp and paper mills: a review of occupational and community epidemiology Vol 29, Supplement 2.