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Cancer Disproportionately Affects Polynesians

Review identifies disparities in cancer incidence, mortality and survival in Pacific populations

WEDNESDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Among the indigenous Polynesian people who live in the Pacific triangle -- a vast area that stretches from New Zealand to Hawaii -- there are significant disparities in cancer incidence, mortality and survival, according to a review article published in the May issue of The Lancet Oncology.

Gabi U. Dachs, Ph.D., of the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand, and colleagues searched PubMed for pertinent articles published in English between January 1990 and April 2007. They also searched Web sites of the Ministry of Health in New Zealand, the New Zealand Cancer Registry, the Hawaii Tumor Registry and the World Health Organization.

The researchers found that reported risk factors such as smoking, viral infections and obesity vary widely between the Polynesian and non-Polynesian populations. In New Zealand's Pacific people, they found a mixed pattern of cancer incidence that included a combination of infection-related cancers common in developing countries, such as those of the liver and cervix, and lifestyle-related cancers common in developed countries such as those of the prostate. In both New Zealand and Hawaii, they found that Pacific people had higher site-specific cancer mortality rates than people of European descent, even for sites such as the colon in which they had a lower incidence.

"Evidence-based action can control cancer to create a new reality for all people everywhere," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "We know from experience that closing the gap between knowledge and action can decrease the incidence of cancer. We have to sustain this effort until cancer is eliminated as a major health problem, an achievement that will be the greatest victory in public-health history."

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