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Cancer

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 27 March 1952

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35.

asked the Minister of Health the proportion of the total deaths in the United Kingdom which arose from cancer in 1931 and 1951 respectively.

In 1950, the latest year for which figures are available, the proportion of total deaths in England and Wales, which arose from cancer including various analogous conditions was 16.71 per cent. The comparable figure for 1931 was 11.96 per cent. As regards Scotland, I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

37.

asked the Minister of Health if he has given consideration to the desirability of education in the cancer field; and what conclusions he has reached.

Yes, Sir. The Central Health Services Council have advised my right hon. Friend that it is undesirable at the present time for any cancer publicity to be carried out by any central Government organisation direct to the general public. My right hon. Friend's Cancer and Radiotherapy Standing Advisory Committee are considering the merits of local schemes of cancer education.

Does my hon. Friend not think that it is about time that the secrecy with which cancer has been surrounded for the past 30 years was brought to an end and some attempt made to educate the public and enable them to take certain safeguards that are practicable in this case?

Will the hon. Lady bear in mind that the type of advice which she has been given and which she has described is, in the minds of many other people, and, I think, in the minds of the public at large, wrong, and that the public have the right to know what dangers they face, whether they be from cigarettes or whether they be from arsenic in tobacco? The more we know about them the better for us all.

Can the hon. Lady indicate to the House how much of the increase in deaths attributable to cancer, to which she has referred, is due to the improvement in the method of diagnosis?

In answer to the last question, certainly I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that considerable steps in improvement have been taken in diagnosis in the early stages of the incidence of cancer, and that has substantially contributed to the increased figures. So far as the other points raised are concerned, taking the best medical advice at our disposal we do not think it is advisable to increase public alarm, but we are using all endeavours, by the education of general practitioners in early diagnosis, to encourage all possible methods of ascertaining the incidence of this disease.