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Why twice as many Germans get cancer as 40 years ago

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Why twice as many Germans get cancer as 40 years ago
The results of a mammogram. Photo: DPA
12:12 CET+01:00
A report on cancer carried out for the Healthy Ministry and published on Tuesday revealed that Germans are increasingly likely to contract cancer, but they should also live longer.

The Report on Cancer in Germany, conducted by the Robert Koch Institute, found that almost twice as many new cases of cancer were reported in in 2013 as in 1970. In 2013, 482,500 people were diagnosed with the disease.

The reason though is simple: German society is becoming older, and the risk for many types of cancer increases with age. In fact, Germany now has one of the oldest populations in the world.

Only when one adjusts for the aging of German society do useful patterns cancer rates begin to emerge.

One piece of good news is that lung and prostate cancer rates have gone down. The authors attribute the drop in lung cancer cases to greater awareness of the dangers of smoking. Meanwhile, the report says a drop in the number of advanced tumours identified in women's breasts is due to the introduction of mammograms.

There are currently four million living people in Germany who have suffered from cancer. In 2013, cancer led to 200,000 people being unable to work, while it was the reason for people needing care in one in eight cases.

The chances of living a longer life after a cancer diagnosis are considerably better now than 35 years ago, the report found. While in 1980 someone who had contracted cancer would on average die at the age of 70, they now live to 74.

“Thanks to our good healthcare system, cancer victims are living much longer now than ten years ago,” said Health Minister Hermann Gröhe in Berlin on Tuesday.

But survival is heavily dependent on the type of cancer one contracts. Those with liver or pancreatic cancer have a worse outlook than those with testicular cancer, for example.

Gröhe emphasized that lifestyle is an important determining factor in whether someone contracts the disease. The report lists alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as obesity and lack of exercise, as contributing factors.

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