Mortality Rate From Cancer in Israel Fell by 25% in Past 20 Years

2004 to 2006 marked a turning point for cancer rates among Jewish men and among Arabs, both men and women.

The oncology ward at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center.
Hagai Frid

The mortality rate due to cancer in Israel has dropped 25 percent in the past 20 years, but the death rates for the disease in the geographical periphery of the country are 8 percent higher than in central Israel.

This, according to data published Wednesday by the Israel Cancer Association and the Health Ministry to mark World Cancer Day, which falls on Saturday.

According to the figures, every year an average of 29,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in Israel and 11,000 people die of the disease. But the rate of death from cancer is dropping. Experts attribute the improvement to greater awareness of the disease and the increased use of early detection methods.

The most common types of cancer for women in Israel are breast, colon and lung cancer, while for the most common are lung, colon and prostate cancer. 

According to Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, the deputy director of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control, in 2014 there were 29,516 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Israel and 10,931 people died. She noted that more than 300,000 Israelis alive today have or had cancer.

Although among Jewish women there has been a steady, 0.9 percent annual decrease in the cancer morbidity rate, 2004 to 2006 marked a turning point for cancer rates among Jewish men and among Arabs, both men and women. From 1990 there had been a 1 percent annual increase in the incidence of cancer – 4.13 percent among Arab men – but in 2006 the trend began to reverse. From 2008 through 2014 there was an annual drop of 3.78 percent in the incidence of cancer among Jews, and 2.53 percent among Arabs.

Among Arab women there had been a significant rise in morbidity – 4.54 percent a year – but from 2006 to 2014 that trend was stopped and the rate of illness has stabilized.

A special report that examined the morbidity and mortality rates from cancer in relation to the periphery index (a Central Bureau of Statistics index) for 2014 shows that men who live in outlying areas are 8 percent more likely to develop all types of cancer compared to the rate of risk in the general population, while in the central region the morbidity rates were 3 percent less than the national average.

The gap also exists among women, although to a lesser extent, with women in outlying areas 3 percent more likely to develop cancer, while women in the center were 2 to 3 percent less likely to contract the disease.

The report also pointed to differences in morbidity for different types of cancer, with the biggest differences relating to colon cancer. Men in outlying areas are 17 percent more likely to develop colon cancer and women 12 percent more likely than the general population, while men and women in the center were 8 percent and 7 percent less likely than the national average to contract it.

“This finding could reflect a higher awareness and a higher use of early-detection technologies, as a result of which precancerous growths are removed, reducing the chances of the disease,” explains Keinan-Boker. She also said that similar gaps were seen with regard to lung cancer, which could be explained by higher smoking rates among Arab men.

The periphery-center gap reverses itself with regard to breast cancer, with women in the center statistically more like to be stricken than women in outlying areas. Here the chances of becoming ill were linked more to genetics, socioeconomic levels and early detection awareness than geography.

The cancer society noted that the British forum Cancer Research UK predicted that given the morbidity trends and new developments in cancer treatments, within 20 years 75 percent of people who develop cancer will be cured.