SUVA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Fiji's Minister for Health Dr Neil Sharma said on Monday that the Pacific island nation is faced with a cancer burden.
Cancer is the third leading cause of death in Fiji and accounts for 10 percent of all deaths annually.
Sharma told the media that cervical cancer was the biggest killer for women followed by breast cancer, while for men, it was prostate cancer that caused the highest deaths.
He said that the incidence of cancer in Fiji was about 129 cases per 100 000 people for a population of around 800,000 people.
"Globally 70 percent of cancers are diagnosed late, we are no different in Fiji and the concept of annual check up or screening has not taken off yet."
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and outlined in Fiji Ministry of Health's Strategic Plan 2007-2011, major health challenges still facing the country include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, respiratory diseases and cancers have now replaced infectious and parasitic diseases as the principal cause of mortality and morbidity.
The WHO has said noted Fiji's cancer incidence is at a rate of 128.9 per 100,000.
Earlier, Fijian President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau also said Fiji' s cancer rate was among the highest in the Western Pacific after New Caledonia with a rate of 218.5 per 100,000 and Guam with a rate of 157.9 per 100,000.
The Health Ministry is addressing the growing burden of cancer by improving community access to adequate primary and preventative cancer services including access to effective, efficient and quality clinical and rehabilitative cancer services.
However, with regard to the risk factors for cancer, statistics available from surveys reveal that the prevalence of smoking in Fiji was 37 percent of which 42 percent smoke daily.
"Obesity, which is associated with endometrial cancers, is rising rapidly," said Nailatikau.
The latest Non Communicable Diseases steps survey also indicated that 29 percent of the population was overweight and a significant 18 percent obese.
The problem was being further compounded by the low intake of fruits and vegetables with about one third of the population eating less than one serving of vegetables per day and two thirds eating less than one serving.
There is a general feeling in Fiji that vegetables were becoming too expensive for families and that the recent weather changes caused by climate change as well as flooding escalated the problem as vendors continued to increase the price of these produce.