Delta cancer alarm

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leukemia cellsAN unknown genetic and environmental cocktail has sparked a mysterious rise in blood cancers in Australia with rates almost doubling over the past two decades.

While most cancers have declined or stabilised, the incidence of blood cancers such as lymphoma is on the rise.

New cases of blood cancers have spiked from nearly 4000 cases in 1983 to more than 7500 diagnosed in 2001.

Blood cancers include leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma, the condition from which singer Delta Goodrem suffered.

It is largely the rate of lymphomas that is driving the increase with 11 people a day now diagnosed. Experts predict the rates will increase by more than 30 per cent between 2002 and 2010.

Doctors are at a loss to explain what causes the disease, or what is responsible for the steep rise, but new research is exploring the connection between diet and diagnosis.

"The total numbers of people with cancer is increasing because of an ageing population, but in the case of lymphoma we have this additional increase which we just can't explain," the Leukaemia Foundation's Dr Anna Williamson told The Daily Telegraph. "It appears to be associated with Western lifestyle as it's only happening in Western countries."

International research is exploring possible risk factors including diet, agricultural chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides, hair dye and recreational drugs such as speed, cocaine and LSD.

A US study of 600 women with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma suggested a possible link between a diet high in meat, saturated fats, dairy products, and eggs and low in fibre, fruits and vegetables.

One of the fastest-growing cancers in Australia, and a recently listed priority cancer for the Federal Government, lymphoma is an umbrella term that covers more than 30 types of the disease.

Emma Sayers, 32, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma just before her 21st birthday after a large swelling appeared on her neck.

After that it was a rapid treadmill of specialist visits and scans followed by six months of chemotherapy.

She now campaigns for greater awareness for blood cancers and hopes the Government will spend more to determine risk factors.

source  - The Daily Telegraph

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