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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2007, 14:59 GMT
130m drive to cut cancer deaths
Sunbed
The new strategy is expected to put sunbed use under the spotlight
Cigarette vending machines could be banned and strict regulations imposed on sunbeds as part of a 130m drive to boost cancer survival rates in England.

A new five-year government strategy will emphasise risks from lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and excessive sunbathing.

It will also seek to cut radiotherapy waiting times and address the 'postcode lottery' of drug treatments.

Cancer is the leading cause of premature mortality in the UK.

There are 230,000 new cases of cancer a year in England alone and it causes a quarter of all deaths.

The UK has had poor survival rates compared with the US, western Europe and Canada.

Survival rates have improved over the past decade, but there has been little progress on some cancers, including lung and pancreas, and major inequalities persist in death rates between rich and poor.

Tobacco regulation

Health Secretary Alan Johnson and the government's cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards will set out the five-year strategy on Monday.

It will pledge that no patient anywhere in the country should wait more than 31 days for treatment.

Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of cancer and the commitment to go further on tobacco regulation is critical
Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK

The drive will also focus on combating variation in cancer services across the country and delays between licensing and appraisal of new drugs by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Some measures have already been announced, including extending breast and bowel cancer screening programmes.

The proposals were welcomed by Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, who said boosting radiotherapy services would help maximise survival chances.

"Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of cancer and the commitment to go further on tobacco regulation is critical," he added.

Research by the British Heart Foundation suggests as many as one in six school children who are regular smokers buy their cigarettes from vending machines.

Melanoma

Some experts say spending NHS money on radiotherapy rather than on expensive new cancer drugs like Herceptin will benefit more patients.

Dr Michael Williams, vice-president of the Royal College of Radiologists, said: "About half of all cancer patients should get radiotherapy at some point in their illness, yet only 38% do in England.

"That's 36,000 patients out of 275,000 who miss out which is a substantial number."

He said the investment would help meet the target of treating all patients within one month.

The government is also expected to review the number and use of sunbeds, particularly by under 18s.

Melanoma - a form of skin cancer caused by ultra-violet light - is one of the fastest rising cancers in the UK.

Trade body the Sunbed Association has a voluntary code which says no-one under 16 should be allowed to use a sunbed because the cancer risk is so high.

But the association insists that the greatest source of UV exposure is the sun.

In response to lobbying for greater regulation of the tanning industry last year, spokeswoman Kathy Banks said: "It is essential that due consideration should be given to people's outdoor exposure habits if there is to be any positive impact on skin cancer prevention."



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