Israel Sees Decline in Cancer Among Men, Increase in General Survival Rate

Meanwhile, the cancer rate has remained steady among Jewish women and has increased among Arab women

An internal medicine ward in Assaf Harofeh Hospital in December.
Tomer Appelbaum

The incidence of cancer among men in Israel has declined over the last decade – from 2007 for Jewish men and since 2005 among Arab men, the Israel Cancer Association reported on Sunday.

The cancer rate has remained steady among Jewish women, while among Arab women the data show an increase in the incidence of the diseases between 1990 and 2016.

In 2016, 30,569 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Israel and 11,077 people died from cancer that year. The primary cancers responsible for deaths in Israel are lung, colon and rectal cancer, along with pancreatic, prostate and bladder cancer. As of the end of 2015, 90,000 people living in Israel had been diagnosed with the disease between the years 2012 to 2015.

>> 'Highly irresponsible:' Israeli company claims to have a cure for cancer, but scientists say not so fast

Miri Ziv, the director general of the Israel Cancer Association, said: “Israel is in 90th place in the world in cancer mortality, even though it has relatively high morbidity, ranking 50th in the world, because of the high public awareness that the association has instilled as to the importance of prevention and early detection, and also due to the dramatic improvements in treatment and therapies.”

The association will mark World Cancer Day on Monday.

Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, deputy director of the Israel Center for Disease Control in the Health Ministry, said one of the most significant risks for the occurrence of cancer is age, with cancer being more common in older adults than in younger adults or children.

Cancer rates

“The causes of cancer in younger people are in most cases unknown,” she said. “We’re talking about a disease that’s caused by a series of mutations in the cellular genetic material, which leads to uncontrolled cell division. While in adults these mutations develop over one’s life, younger people are more likely to have congenital mutations.”

“In addition, exposure to known risk factors contributes to the incidence of cancer in younger people, like ionizing radiation from the sun or tanning beds, as well as diagnostic and therapeutic radiation, or infectious agents like the papilloma virus (HPV) or the AIDS virus, obesity and smoking,” added Keinan Boker.

The most common cancers among younger people (up to age 44) are breast cancer (in women), lymphoma (Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins), melanoma, sarcoma, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer, leukemia and tumors of the brain or central nervous system. Reports from some countries, such as England, indicate an increase in the incidence of new cancers in younger people.

Keinan Boker and Dr. Barbara Silverman, the director of the Israel National Cancer Registry in the Health Ministry, examined the situation in Israel between 1990 and 2015 concerning invasive tumors, focusing on the 0-44 age group. This range was divided into two subgroups: children and adolescents (age 0-19) and adults. The findings show that the numbers of adult cancer patients (20-44) increased over time, but that this reflected mainly population growth, rather than an increase in their relative share of the population, and that the cancer risk for this age group increased over time only among women.

Healthy lifestyle

Experts stressed the need to reduce younger people’s exposure to known cancer risks like smoking, obesity and sun exposure as much as possible.

The Cancer Association stresses that according to data from the Union for International Cancer Control, more than a third of cancer cases could be prevented, while another third could be cured if they are discovered in time and receive proper treatment. By investing resources in prevention, early detection and treatment, up to 3.7 million people worldwide could be saved from cancer every year. The UICC says that some 9.6 million people die of cancer annually worldwide, and that the total annual cost of treating cancer is estimated at $1.66 trillion dollars.

“More than a third of cancers could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, avoiding smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol, a healthy balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight,” said Ziv. “Together with screenings for early detection and getting the recommended vaccinations, cancer morbidity and mortality in Israel could be reduced by about 50 percent.”

Hothouse for growing cannabis in Revadim.
\ Eyal Toueg

Alternative treatments

According to a study that was published last year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the mortality rate among patients who chose to receive only alternative treatments was 2.5 times higher than the mortality rate for those who received conventional medical treatments.

In addition, 73 percent of Americans believe that cancer patients should not face any obstacles in obtaining opioid painkillers, despite the serious overuse and abuse of these drugs in the United States.

A similar survey taken in Israel showed that 81 percent of Israelis said that the benefit of using moderate to strong painkillers, like opioids, for cancer patients outweighs the risks of becoming addicted to the drugs.

Eighty-three percent of Americans who participated in the survey supported the use of medical cannabis for cancer patients, but 48 percent of those who had cancer and used cannabis last year had difficulty obtaining it, and 58 percent of patients or recovering patients were interested in more information about the benefits of medical cannabis for relieving symptoms caused by the treatments and from the disease itself.

In the Israeli survey, 69 percent of those questioned said they support the use of medical cannabis for cancer patients, while 80 percent of the cancer patients surveyed said they would be happy to get more information about the advantages and disadvantages of using medical cannabis to relieve pain, nausea, or other symptoms resulting from cancer treatment.