Health Minister Simon Hamilton says more people in Londonderry die from lung cancer than in other parts of Northern Ireland because poorer people smoke more tobacco.
Mr Hamilton was asked by outgoing East Londonderry MLA Gregory Campbell if he intended establishing the underlying reasons for the “significant disparity in Local Government Districts on the number of registered deaths due to lung cancer per 1,000 population.”
The Minister responded: “The variation in death rates due to lung cancer by District Council reflects incidence rates. Incidence rates in turn mirror the level of underlying risk factors especially tobacco use.
“Tobacco use and lung cancer incidence is highest in the more deprived groups of our population and this link to deprivation explains much of the geographical pattern that we see in Northern Ireland.”
The most recent analysis by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR) shows that there are significantly higher incidence rates for lung cancer and stomach cancer in Londonderry and Strabane, compared with the Northern Ireland average.
According to the NICR analysis, which surveyed the 2008-2012 period, there were on average 76 deaths from lung cancer per year across Londonderry and Strabane.
The average number of males deaths over the five year period was forty-one, with the average number of female deaths put at 35.
The NICR also refers to tobacco as a major contributory factor.
“Smoking is one of the biggest causes of many cancers. The highest smoking prevalence in NI in 2012 was in the Western HSCT (28 per cent) with an average prevalence throughout Northern Ireland of 24 per cent.
“Alcohol has been established as a causative factor in breast, colorectal, head and neck, pancreatic and oesophageal cancers.
“In Northern Ireland, the percentage of drinkers who consumed alcohol more than just occasionally was 70 per cent in 2012.
“It was highest in Belfast HSCT (75 per cent) and lowest in the Southern HSCT (66 per cent). Obesity has been shown to be a risk factor for breast, colorectal, pancreas, kidney, oesophagus, and uterine cancers, and may be a risk factor for others. In 2012 levels of obesity (based upon body mass index (BMI)) were slightly higher in the South-Eastern and Western HSCT (27 per cent), although the South-Eastern HSCT also had the highest proportion of people (56 per cent) taking the recommended minimum amount of physical activity (150min) each week.”