Cancer is biggest killer in Ireland – causing 3 in 10 deaths

Cancer is biggest killer in Ireland – causing 3 in 10 deaths

A NEWLY released report has confirmed that cancer is the leading cause of death in Ireland.

The disease is responsible for nearly three in every ten deaths the EU’s Country Health Profile on Ireland claims.

Published today, the State of Health in the EU findings revealed the “burden of cancer in Ireland is higher than the EU average”.

The report, which is published every second year, compares Ireland with other EU countries and the EU average across a range of indicators including health, risk factors, and the performance of the health system.

“According to estimates from the Joint Research Centre based on historical trends, the incidence of cancer in Ireland was projected to be above the EU average for both men and women, with about 26,880 new cancer cases expected to have arisen in 2022,” the 2023 report states.

“Cancer incidence among Irish men was expected to be about 30 per cent higher than among women, a smaller gap compared to the EU average, reflecting a comparatively higher projected cancer incidence among Irish women, which exceeded the EU average by 15 per cent,” it added.

The findings show prostate cancer was the single most common cancer among Irish men, accounting for 28 per cent of new cancers, in 2022.

In the same year breast cancer accounted for nearly 30 per cent of all new cancer cases among women.

Colorectal and lung cancers were the second and third most frequent types of cancer diagnosed in Ireland last year, accounting for 13 per cent and 11 per cent of all new cancer cases for both men and women.

Circulatory diseases, which were the leading cause of death in Ireland up to 2019, now place second, having been on a decade-long decline.

For the first time, the EU’s 2023 report also included data around mental health.

It found over one million people in Ireland had a mental health disorder in 2019, accounting for 21 per cent of the Irish population.

Anxiety disorders were the most prevalent within this figure, followed by depressive disorders and alcohol and drug-use disorders.

The report added that during the pandemic the surge in demand for mental healthcare placed a burden on primary care, resulting in prolonged waiting times for specialist mental health services across the country.

“The burden of mental ill health in Ireland is high, with over one million individuals estimated to have a mental health disorder in 2019,” the report states.

“Ireland’s Strategy to Reduce Suicide has contributed to declining suicide rates over the past decade,” it added.

“In recent years, the surge in demand for mental health services has led to prolonged waiting times for specialist mental healthcare – particularly for adolescent services.

"To address this challenge, Ireland revised its strategy to strengthen mental healthcare services, and allocated a record budget of EUR 1.2 billion to mental health services in 2023."

Elsewhere the report found 80 per cent of the Irish population reported being in “good health” which was the highest level of all EU countries featured in the health report series.

Ireland’s mortality rates from preventable and treatable causes were also 20 per cent lower than the average EU rates.

Speaking following the publication of the report, Ireland’s Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: "These Country Health Profiles provide a concise and policy-relevant overview of health and health services in the EU/European Economic Area.

“They emphasise the characteristics and challenges in each country against a backdrop of cross-country comparisons. They have helped support us in policy making and are an important means for mutual learning and voluntary exchange."

Commenting on the report’s mental health statistics, Ireland’s Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Myra Butler said: “Promotion of mental wellbeing and improvement of services available to people experiencing mental health difficulties are key priorities for Government, and these figures are a reminder of why it is important that we retain that focus and commitment.

"Anyone can experience mental health difficulties at any time during their lives, and it is important that we put in place appropriate services so that people can access the right care in the right place, at the right time, depending on their needs.

“I will continue to champion mental health promotion, early intervention and recovery in my role as Minister, as we deliver improvements across all services, and for the whole population."