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Yukon's cancer rates in decline, but still far outstrip national average, says report

A report released Tuesday confirms what Yukoners have long known — cancer is killing many of their family members and friends.

Dr. Catherine Elliott says cancer is the highest cause of death in Yukon, but it doesn't have to be

Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's deputy chief medical officer of health, says cancer is taking a heavy emotional toll in the territory. but much of that can be prevented. (Dave Croft/CBC)

A report released Tuesday confirms what Yukoners have long known —  cancer is killing many of their family members and friends.

The report is the "first comprehensive analysis of cancer mortality in Yukon," according to a government release.

Dr. Catherine Elliott, Yukon's deputy chief medical officer of health, said cancer is the leading cause of death in Yukon.

Three of ten Yukoners die of it, with lung cancer being the most deadly, followed by colorectal, breast, prostate and stomach cancer.

The report says from 2009 to 2013, 137 females died of cancer and 171 males. Over a 15-year period, 62 people in the territory, on average, died of cancer each year.

"It has a very heavy bearing in terms of the cost on all of us personally, spiritually, emotionally, on our societies and our communities," said Elliott.

"It's something that I'm hoping that this report will help us collaborate and work better together to prevent."

Elliott said there has been improvement, but the outlook is not encouraging.

"Cancer mortality rates are declining in Yukon, but they do remain elevated compared with national rates and the number of cancer deaths is expected to increase due to population aging and growth in Yukon," said Elliott.

From 2008 to 2012, 455 Yukoners died of lung cancer. If Yukon was in line with the national average, the number would have been 340, according to the report.

However, Elliot said that experts believe more than half of all cancers overall are preventable, adding that 80 per cent of the territory's lung cancer cases are caused by smoking.

Yukoners can work toward those goals through prevention, including giving up smoking, less drinking and healthier eating habits, she said.

Elliott said that on the health care side, early diagnosis and screening with the best possible treatment will also make a difference.

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