Mortality rises avoidable, study shows

National public health policy has failed to deal with preventable diseases such as lung cancer, which, due to the continuing habit of smoking, has risen significantly over the last three decades, according to the recently published results of a long-term study led by the National School of Public Health (ESDY). The study, led by ESDY professor Yiannis Kyriopoulos, showed that the country’s medical practices – both preventative medicine and treatments – over the last quarter-century have done little, if anything, to avert cancer-related deaths. Mortality from lung, bronchial and throat cancer in people up to 74 years old increased substantially from 1980 to 2003, the study shows. ESDY records 34.41 deaths per 100,000 people from cancer today, compared to 26.78 per 100,000 in 1980. The data did have a bright spot. Deaths from diseases considered curable (the ESDY scientists looked at 33 types) dropped markedly between 1980 and 2003 – from 127.06 deaths per 100,000 people to 70.37 deaths per 100,000 people. Still, the observed decline of deaths from gynecological cancers – such as breast or uterine cancer – was not as high as expected. There are other worrisome health trends among Greeks as well, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which are exacerbated by stress, lack of exercise and poor diet. Poor health often afflicts people with low incomes and poor education, Kyriopoulos said. In fact, he continued, poverty and disease are often closely intertwined. «Let’s remember Dr Spyros Doxiadis [a pioneering doctor and a former minister of health], who said that medicine can do little for people trapped in poverty,» Kyriopoulos said. Three decades ago, Doxiadis had also asked his fellow Greeks to stop smoking to save their health.