By ADRIAN MILLER
THE Far North Coast is quickly becoming the cancer capital of the State, after figures released by the Cancer Institute of NSW showed the area has the highest incidence of cancer per head of population.
However, the news is not all bad.
The Cancer Incidence and Mortality Report 2003 revealed that while more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer, more than ever before are surviving the disease.
The report shows 634 per 100,000 of the population on the Far North Coast were diagnosed with cancer between 1999-2003.
By comparison, the figure statewide is 463 per 100,000.
The report also revealed one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives.
The Cancer Institute of NSW chief cancer officer Professor Jim Bishop said the high incidence of cancer on the Far North Coast was mostly the result of lifestyle factors.
"There's more melanoma in the North Coast than there is for example in the southern borders (and) it's because of the sun and the lifestyle," he said.
He said the figures showed an increase in other forms of cancers as well, such as breast and lung cancer, but they could be attributed to an ageing and growing population.
Prof Bishop said as well as exposure to the sun, smoking was the biggest causes of cancer.
He said roughly 20 per cent of all cancers were related to, or caused by, smoking.
However not smoking, being sun smart and young does not guarantee that you are safe.
Cancer survivor and Angourie resident Peter Finucan was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands at age 38, and with a wife and three children, it came as a massive blow.
"Like all people (my reaction was) 'I was far too young, why me', and on the other hand, 'hang on, I've got a family to feed'," he said.
Mr Finucan, first diagnosed in 1988, continued to fight the disease for the next four years, and was given the all clear in 1995.
He said he believed all lifestyle factors needed consideration when it came to cancer.
"I looked into the stuff you do and I became aware exercise and diet were the best things I could do (to recover)," he said.
"The best thing I could do was to get the balance right to get rid of the disease and I believe it worked."