Cancer rate in the United States highest in the world

A new study published in the International Journal of Cancer (2002;97:72-81) compared cancer rates in major developed and developing countries.

1.5% of the North American population was diagnosed with cancer over the past 5 years (this study excluded skin cancers, except for melanoma). Western Europe was second with 1.2%, followed by Australia, New Zealand and, finally, Japan with 1%.

Developing countries were found to have consistently lower rates, a fact that is attributed to the lower life expectancy in those countries. It is reasoned that, since people die younger from other causes, not enough of them reach an age at which cancer becomes more likely.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Japanese – with their dramatically lower cancer rate – have a higher life expectancy than we do. Like the U.S.A., Japan has its share of environmental chemicals and other pollutants, including mercury contamination of its seafood but, overall, the Japanese favor a more traditional diet with fewer processed foods.

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