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The number of children recovering from cancer in Israel has risen sharply over the past decade and a half, the Health Ministry said in a new report published yesterday. Survival rates a year after initial cancer diagnosis among girls under 14 has risen from 89.9 percent in the early 1990s to 93.3 percent in 2005 to 2007. For boys, the recovery rate has risen from 91.1 percent in the early 1990s to 93.5 percent in 2002 to 2004. Their recovery rate dropped to 88.5 percent in 2005 to 2007, for which the ministry as yet has no explanation.

Five years from diagnosis, recovery rates among boys went up from 76.2 percent to 78.5 percent and then to 84.2 percent, between the early 1990s and 2004.

Dr. Micha Barchana, who edited the report and is director of the ministry's national cancer registry, told Haaretz the increased survival could be credited to newly discovered treatments.

According to the report, 1,392 children under 14 were diagnosed with cancer over the past five years. Unlike in adults, no significant gaps were observed between boys and girls or between the Jewish and the Arab populations. "These findings indicate that in this age group, cancer is not affected by environmental or lifestyle factors."

Israel's rate of children under 14 with cancer is comparable to that of other industrialized countries. Cancer rates among boys is similar to that in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and is higher than in Italy and Japan. The cancer rates among girls are similar to those in the United States and Australia, lower than in Italy and higher than in the United Kingdom and Japan.

The most widespread cancers among Israeli children were brain and nervous system tumors (including benign tumors ) and then lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone cancer.

For adults, the recovery rate have also improved in recent years, the report said, with an estimated 200,000 people living in Israel today who have recovered from cancer. "The higher number of recovering patients is thanks to early diagnosis and innovative treatments, said Professor Eliezer Robinson, chairman of the Israel Cancer Association. "Sixty-five percent of deaths from cancer could be prevented by avoiding smoking and uncontrolled exposure to the sun, as well as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the national program for diagnosing breast cancer in Israel, Professor Gadi Renart, presented the results of his research, showing that biphosphonate medications used to prevent bone mass loss may also help prevent breast cancer. At a press conference ahead of the Israel Cancer Association's annual door-to-door fundraiser, Renart said that women who take biphosphonates regularly, even for a limited period of time, reduce the probability of developing breast cancer by 30 percent.

The research specifically looked at inexpensive biphosphonate medications containing alendronate, including Fosamax and Alendronate-Teva. "The influence of the medication appears to begin after just one year of treatment, without need for prolonged use," said Renart.

Renart is seen as a leader in the field, having found cancer-preventing influences in aspirin and statins. The fundraising "Knock on the Door" campaign is marking it 50th anniversary this year and will be led by Effi Rosenhaus, CEO of the Supersol supermarket chain, who announced yesterday he personally donated one million shekels to the campaign.