By MICHAEL BACHNER
The number of cancer cases among Israeli men has significantly decreased over the past two decades, while the number has remained steady among Jewish women and almost doubled among Arab women, according to data released Sunday by the Israel Cancer Association and the Health Ministry.
According to the data, published a day before World Cancer Day on February 4, the number of deaths from cancer dropped over the same time period among all groups of the Jewish state’s population.
Between 1995 and 2016, there was a statistically significant drop in cancer deaths among Jewish men and women, with an annual average decrease of 1.7 and 1.6 percent, respectively.
During that period there was a lower — but still statistically significant — drop in cancer deaths among Arab men and women by a yearly rate of 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively.
Despite the lower death rate, the prevalence of cancer among Arab women has nearly doubled, from 105.6 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 200.8 cases in 2016.
Though cancer cases were significantly higher among older Israelis, the report identified risk factors for cancer among younger people, including obesity, smoking, exposure to radiation from sunlight and tanning beds and exposure to the human papillomavirus virus (HPV).
Some 27,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2016, 53% of them among women. More Jews are diagnosed with the disease (relative to population size) than Arabs. At the end of that year, there was a total of 90,661 cancer patients in Israel — 50,690 women and 39,971 men.
The most prevalent type of cancer among both Jewish and Arab women is breast cancer (33.1% and 34.5%, respectively), followed by cancer of the colon, rectum or anus (10.2% and 9.1%). Among Arab men the most frequent type was lung cancer (21.7%) and among Jewish men it was prostate cancer (17%).
Although Israel is among the world’s 50 countries with the highest cancer rate (ranking 50th on that list), the death rate is much lower — 92nd in the world, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Miri Ziv of the Israel Cancer Association attributed that figure to “the high public awareness” pushed by her organization, as well as “the dramatic improvement in treatment.”
“More than a third of cancer cases are preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes sports, abstention from smoking and extensive alcohol drinking, a healthy and balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight,” Ziv said.
“Combined with undergoing scans for early detection and getting the recommended vaccines, cancer cases and deaths can be reduced by some 50%,” she added.