Cancer may be one of the leading causes of death, but a British Columbia researcher says at least half of the cases are preventable.
Carolyn Gotay said P.E.I. has made improvements when it comes to some of the preventable factors that can cause cancer, but the province still has room to improve further.
“If there’s any consolation, so does every province,” she said.
Gotay, who is the Canadian Cancer Society’s chair in cancer primary prevention at the University of British Columbia, was in Charlottetown Wednesday for the group’s kickoff of the annual Relay for Life fundraising campaign.
This year, the Queens County relay will be held June 7 at the Red Shores driving park in Charlottetown.
The Canadian Cancer Society will hold six relays in total, including in Kensington and at UPEI.
Last year, the Queens County relay raised more than $141,000, while P.E.I. raised a total of more than $400,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Bill Whelan, the Canadian Cancer Society in P.E.I.’s president, said the Relay for Life is more than just a fundraiser.
“It’s a community experience,” he said.
During her speech, Gotay said last year there were 880 new cases of cancer in P.E.I. and 380 deaths expected.
“Numbers are sobering but 50 per cent of cancers could be prevented from ever happening in the first place.”
Gotay said most people aren’t aware that can be preventable.
“It seems like something that comes on in the night, there weren’t any warning signs, there’s nothing that could be done,” she said.
Some of the leading causes are tobacco use, poor diet, inactivity and obesity, although Gotay said there are other factors people
have no control over, such as genetics.
Changes take time, she said, and she used lower smoking rates as an example of behaviour that gradually changed.
“You don’t see changes happen overnight.”
Gotay said one of the biggest things that needs to be done is build what she called an
infrastructure of researchers to train people about cancer prevention.
“I think we don’t have enough people and we don’t have enough training programs,” she said.
Cancer prevention needs to move from the research level to what people put into practice with policies in place to support them, she said.
“There has to be an integration for a societal level effect to be made.”