Cancer has become the third major health threat after diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in the Republic of Mauritius.
Nearly 1400 new cases of cancers and 950 cancer deaths occur each year. In 2008, cancers accounted for 11.9% of all deaths in the country. There were, in total, 2286 and 3280 new cases of cancer in men and women respectively between 2005-2008, and 58 % of all female cancers occurred in the age group of 15-60 years, while 1.7 % of all cases occurred in children below the age of 14 years. The total number of new cases has risen by 41 % and 40 % in men and women respectively between 1992 and 2008. There has been a doubling of the incidence rate of female breast cancer between the periods 1989-1992 and 2005-2008.
The incidence and prevalence of the different types of cancers vary in different parts of the world. In Mauritius, breast cancer in females and cancer of the colon & rectum in males are the commonest, while in children, acute leukaemia is the commonest cancer.
The population should be informed about the common cancers and about the risk factors and lifestyles that predispose individuals to develop such cancers. Avoiding risk factors and lifestyles will help to reduce the incidence of some of the preventable cancers in the population.
Tobacco smoking is unequivocally associated with a variety of cancers mainly those of the lungs, mouth and throat. The development of uterine cervix cancer in women is related to sexual lifestyles and the Human Papilloma virus.
In general, one-third of all cancers are preventable, one-third are treatable and the remaining onethird are at present incurable. Palliative care provision, which includes the control of pain and relief of symptoms, needs to be structured and patient-centred. This aspect of cancer control costs little and yet is important in improving the quality of life of cancer patients.