Question: Our cancer rates here on P.E.I. are worse than the rest of Canada. What is your opinion of this and how can we protect ourselves?
Answer: On P.E.I., as in the rest of Canada, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death in men and women. More people in P.E.I. will die of lung cancer than prostate, breast and colorectal cancers combined. Thirty per cent of all cancer deaths are related to tobacco use. So I feel the laws should be stricter in terms of exposing others in public spaces, vehicles and children in their homes. So let's put an end to second-hand smoke exposure and make quitting the only obvious choice.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and P.E.I. has the highest mortality rate for prostate cancer in the country at 35 per cent higher than the national average. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in Island women. While the incidence rate for breast cancer is four per cent lower than the national average, the mortality rate for this disease on P.E.I. is 28 per cent higher than the national average. Colorectal cancer remains the third most common cancer in Island men and women. P.E.I. has the second highest mortality rate for women, 29 per cent higher than the national average. The incidence of melanoma in P.E.I. males is 60 per cent higher than the national average.
As a society we should be disturbed by these findings.
As far as protecting yourself, here are just a few things to do: prostate and breast cancer screening; stool testing for colorectal cancer screening; photographing moles and having them checked; avoiding cosmetic and agricultural pesticides as much as possible; avoiding tanning beds and getting sun burned; covering up or using sunscreens that contain UVA and UVB protection but do not contain parabens, oxybenzone or vitamin A; taking vitamin D 2000iu each day with a fatty meal and if you have no gallbladder get a liquid emulsified form.
January 2013 Stats Canada revealed that while 25 per cent of Canadians were supplementing vitamin D, only 10 per cent were in the optimal range, which tells us that people do not supplement enough. I have many patients, as do other NDs and MDs whose vitamin D levels were still very deficient after months of taking 2000iu of vitamin D, so, yes, I think testing is needed to establish an appropriate dose for an individual. Vitamin D is cheap and the evidence is strong for its cancer protective effects, particularly with breast and colorectal cancer, not to mention its other health benefits. Losing weight, especially if you are obese, is also at the top of the cancer protective list.
NDs are health experts, and this expertise includes cancer preventative strategies, as well as cancer therapies that are complementary to conventional cancer treatments. I would love to see more research here for cancer treatments that show potential and are already being investigated elsewhere.
If you feel the government should be actively investigating why Islanders have even higher cancer risk than other Canadians, then express concerns out loud and in writing to MLAs, the minister of health and the premier now, and especially as Islanders head into another election.
Kali Simmonds, ND is a doctor of naturopathic medicine who practises in Charlottetown. The information provided is not intended to diagnose or substitute the advice of your healthcare professional. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes. She welcomes questions for this column which is published the first Tuesday of the month in The Guardian. She can be reached by mail at 34 Queen St., Charlottetown, C1A 4A3, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org