Press Release

Ministers Harris and Corcoran Kennedy mark World Cancer Day

Today, on World Cancer Day (Saturday 4 February), Minister for Health, Simon Harris, T.D., and Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, T.D., highlighted the progress which has already been made in preventing cancers and encouraged people to avail of the resources and supports available under Healthy Ireland to make positive changes to reduce their risk of cancer.

The theme for World Cancer Day, “We can. I can”, explores how everyone can play their part in reducing the burden of cancer.

Minister Harris said, “Under our Healthy Ireland initiative we aim to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone living in Ireland, including people living with and beyond cancer. We are also increasing our focus on prevention which is critical to reducing the risk of many cancers. It is essential that our services meet the needs of people, from diagnosis and treatment to psycho-social support post-treatment. I am delighted to see a focus on improving the quality of life of cancer survivors as part of World Cancer Day. The development of programmes and resources for those living with and beyond cancer will be a key focus of the new National Cancer Strategy, which I look forward to publishing shortly”.

The new National Cancer Strategy for the next ten years is nearing finalisation and will build on the progress made in cancer care under previous strategies.

The WHO estimate that 30% to 40% of cancers are preventable. Much progress has already been made in preventing cancers, and in detecting them early when they do occur. Ireland has led the way internationally in anti-tobacco measures and this continues to be a priority area for cancer prevention. The Healthy Ireland initiative provides the overarching context for healthy lifestyles, with a focus on prevention, reducing health inequalities and keeping people healthier for longer. The three national cancer screening programmes, BreastCheck, BowelScreen and CervicalCheck, also help in the early diagnosis of cancer and all those eligible for the screening programmes are encouraged to participate.

Speaking on World Cancer Day, Minister Corcoran Kennedy said, “Alcohol ,like tobacco, causes cancer. The Healthy Ireland initiative encourages all of us to make healthy lifestyle choices, from quitting smoking, eating healthily, taking more exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight, to reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and avoiding UV radiation. Making healthier choices is not always easy, and Healthy Ireland aims to create a society and environment which makes the healthier choice the easier one for everyone. I would also encourage people to avail of the resources and supports available under Healthy Ireland, such as and, which provide information and advice to help people who want to make positive changes to reduce their risk of cancer and improve their health.”

Many people are now living significantly beyond cancer diagnosis and treatment and this trend will continue to increase. There are currently more than 150,000 cancer survivors in Ireland. This is mainly due to earlier detection and more effective cancer treatment.

World Cancer Day also focuses on supporting cancer survivors to maximise their potential quality of life. Thanks to the advances being made, many of those who survive a cancer diagnosis are able to resume their normal lives, including returning to work, resuming hobbies or generally participating in normal life.


Notes for Editors

Approximately 20,000 people are diagnosed with invasive cancer in Ireland every year. The number of new cases is rising annually and is projected to double by 2040. The percentage of deaths in Ireland attributable to cancer has risen from 20% in the 1980s to over 30% at present.

The WHO estimate that 30% to 40% of cancer are preventable.

Ireland has adopted a programmatic approach to cancer control, with much progress seen following cancer strategies in 1996 and 2006.

Following the 2006 National Cancer Strategy, eight hospitals were designated cancer centres and the National Cancer Control Programme was established within the HSE to support the implementation of the Strategy. Key achievements of the 2006 Strategy include:

  • The establishment of Rapid Access Clinics for suspected breast, lung and prostate cancer;
  • The centralisation of initial diagnosis, treatment planning and surgery; and
  • The establishment of the National Screening Service.

A new National Cancer Strategy is currently nearing finalisation. Key areas of focus will include:

  • Cancer prevention early diagnosis and further improvements to cancer treatment;
  • Improving the model of care for cancer;
  • Facilitating greater patient involvement in cancer services; and
  • Establishing programmes and services to support survivors.

Healthy Ireland – A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025 sets the overarching context in which a focus on cancer prevention will be driven. Healthy Ireland takes a whole-of-Government and whole-of-society approach to improving health and wellbeing, with a focus on prevention, reducing health inequalities and keeping people healthier for longer. The goals of Healthy Ireland are to increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life, to reduce health inequalities, to protect the public from threats to health and wellbeing and to create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their part in achieving a healthy Ireland.

Tobacco Free Ireland, the national tobacco control strategy, has the key goal of making Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 (defined as a prevalence rate of less than 5%). Two key themes underpinning Tobacco Free Ireland are the protection of children and the denormalisation of smoking.

There is a causal link between alcohol and cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and the breast cancer (in women);

Between 2001 and 2010, one in ten breast cancer cases were attributable to alcohol.

Alcohol-related cancers are estimated to more than double for females and increase by 81% for males up to 2020.

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is part of a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce excessive patterns of alcohol consumption as set out in our National Substance Misuse Strategy.

The aim of the legislation is to reduce alcohol consumption and the harms caused by alcohol.

The Bill focuses on affordability, availability and attractiveness and includes provisions for:

  • minimum unit pricing;
  • labelling;
  • advertising;
  • sponsorship;
  • separation of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets; and
  • promotions.