Science Questions

Why are rates of cancer different?

Mon, 4th Jul 2016

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Rube Eastgate asked:

Why do countries with similar standards of living have different rates of cancer? There are two countries that I know well to be generally similar in standard of living, but are very different mainly in physical size and climate: Australia and Switzerland. But they have very different rates of cancer incidence - why are these rates so different for Australia and Switzerland, with approx. 4th and 15th global incidence rates respectively?


Chris Smith put this to fellow Naked Scientist Kat Arney...Cervical cancer Intraepithelial neoplasia

Kat - Wow! I've got like 2 minutes to do this. Cancer is not just one disease. There are many different types of cancer. So there are different rates and different causes of cancers in different countries. Actually, its really hard to know exactly what sorts of cancers happen in different countries and the rates because not all countries keep really good cancer statistics. In the UK, we have some of the best cancer statistics in the world about the different types of cancer we have. But broadly, we can see there are differences so for example, in China, in Asia, there's lower rates of certain types of cancers. In the west, in America, or in Europe, we have higher rates of things like breast cancer and bowel cancer. In Africa, there tend to be high rates of things like cervical cancer, cancers linked to infectious diseases. Its a very complex global picture. So its better to kind of pick one type of cancer and look at it. but we do know there's a role for genetics. So for example, people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are particularly more likely to have certain types of inherited risk of cancer and diet also plays a role as well. So we do know that things like

Chris - So you got a combination of the genes you're born with, environment you live in

Kat - Your nature and your nurture, and how you go on through life as well.



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Barbecued food and skin cancer?
It's impossible to tell without a detailed study of the habits of the locals (and their genetics I guess) Bored chemist, Wed, 22nd Jun 2016

Skin cancer is definitely a big problem in Australia. With a predominantly light-skinned population in a tropical and temperate climate - and a propensity to lie on the beach with minimal clothing. evan_au, Wed, 22nd Jun 2016

Diseases are not caused by any single thing, there are always intrinsic factors such as genetics and mutations. There are also environmental factors such as UV radiation, smoking, or diet.

Every day is a roll of the dice as to whether the right combination of factors will turn up that day and set you up for a bad day at black rock.

Et in Arcadia ego

So have a nice day because it won't ever come back. The wine of life keeps oozing drop by drop. The leaves of life keep falling one by one.

I hope to get shot by a jealous husband at 96 --- in flagrante delicto. eeyore, Thu, 23rd Jun 2016

I'm thinking the primary reasons would be:

1. Varying rates between hereditary links.

2. Varying rates between dietary links.

3. Varying rates between environmental & workplace toxin-exposure.

exothermic, Thu, 23rd Jun 2016

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