Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cancer vs. cardiovascular issues: flip a coin

Cancer and cardiovascular death are virtually tied in raw data.
Yet, we spend millions on *Pink Ribbons, Movember prostate awareness, and cancer research. Of as great importance is maintaining your cardiovascular health. I worked as a CHAP Coordinator in Muskoka. The Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program (CHAP) has many resources. I ran blood pressure clinics and educated caregiver support groups, and other medically-related support groups (MS, stroke, etc.) in have good heart health.

Selected categories of cancer deaths by sex, 2007
The top four sites for primary cancer are narrowed down to four sites: lung, prostate, breast and colon.
These 4 sites represented 50% of all cancers. Primary cancers can metastasize, cancer cells break off and move through the body via the lymph nodes, for example. This may lead to a secondary or tertiary cancer site. For example, lung cancer spreads into the lymph nodes, and then leads to a brain tumour.

Cancer deaths represented 15% of all deaths in Canada in 2007.

  • Lung cancer took 29% of males 
  • Lung Cancer took 25% of females
  • Breast Cancer accounts for 15% of female cancer deaths
  • Colon cancer was responsible for 11% in both sexes
  • Prostate cancer was responsible for 10% of all male deaths by cancer.
When we look at the money we put into cancer research, we realize how important cardiovascular issues are and how much these can be prevented.

2007 Mortality of Canadians
Cancer: 69, 695 cases
Cardiovascular disease: 69, 503 cases

Statistics Canada, CANSIM table 102-0551.

You have to read between the lines (and the 154 pages!) in order to understand the data. For example, in the chart below, it would appear that deaths due to cancer and cardiovascular disease are decreasing. They are not. 

This data is 'age-standardized' to account for an aging population. 

Chart 1   Age-standardized mortality rates for cancer and for major cardiovascular diseases, Canada, 2000 to 2007

It shows decreases by an age standard, but we know that seniors are susceptible to many cancers, that women are at great risk of cardiovascular disease. I think the lesson is to watch your weight, exercise, limited alcohol, refrain from smoking, take care of your mental health (meditate, walk, seek friendships) and eat a balanced diet.


Business marketing campaigns, particularly sales promotions for products that increase pollution, have been condemned as pinkwashing (a portmanteau of pink ribbon and whitewash). Such promotions generally result in a token donation to a breast cancer-related charity, while exploiting the consumers' fear of cancer and grief for people who have died to drive sales.

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