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Cancer experts demand prevention campaign

Despite the use of state of the art cancer detection technology - such as this University of Zurich Hospital radio therapy device - more lives could be saved Keystone

Medical experts say a national prevention programme against cancer could cut deaths by a third. Every year, 17,000 people die of the disease.

This content was published on August 6, 2002 - 17:05

In Bern on Tuesday, Oncosuisse, an umbrella organisation for the main partners in the fight against cancer, outlined possibilities for prevention, early detection, cure and care.

Meanwhile, two politicians from different parties intend to present parliamentary motions in September, calling for a national cancer policy.

"Cancer is everybody's problem - men, women and children," Remo Gysin of the Social Democratic Party told swissinfo.

A third of all male deaths and a quarter of all female deaths in Switzerland are attributable to cancer and 30,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

Coordinated policy

The experts say their aim is not to create new institutions in Switzerland but to ensure better cooperation between the existing players.

At present, the cantons are essentially responsible for treatment and the federal government deals with research.

"What we need today in Switzerland is a coordinated national policy towards prevention and fighting cancer," Franco Cavalli, president of the Swiss Cancer League, told swissinfo.

"In this field it is very difficult to distinguish between treatment and research. That creates a situation where both the central state and the cantons have the possibility to escape their responsibilities.

"We need to bridge the gap. What we would like to see is a national law which states who has to do what and who is responsible for what in the fight against cancer."

Preventing cancer

In its latest guidelines released last month, the World Health Organisation says at least a third of cancer cases could be prevented by measures such as controlling tobacco and alcohol use, moderating diet and reducing the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure.

It says early detection and therefore prompt treatment of a further one-third of cases is possible where resources allow and that effective techniques for pain relief are sufficiently well established to permit comprehensive palliative care for the remaining, more advanced, cases.

"In Switzerland we have very good basic and clinical research and very good treatment possibilities but we are lacking coordinated policy towards prevention of cancer," Franco Cavalli, president of the Swiss Cancer League, told swissinfo.

"We know today that about one third of all cancer cases could be prevented if suitable methods were taken and this will be even more so in the near future.

"Thanks to the development of genetic testing, it will be possible to have a specific prevention policy for each person."

The parliamentary motions will be presented in the autumn session of parliament. Rudolf Joder of the Swiss People's Party is behind the second motion.

Every year, cancer affects more than ten million people worldwide and kills six million.

by Vincent Landon

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