HC Deb 21 January 1954 vol 522 cc1176-8
15. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the public disquiet at the increase in cancer, what action is being taken to combat this disease; what progress has been made; and what further action is contemplated to improve the situation.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Research into causes and treatment forms a substantial part of the programme of the Medical Research Council, in close co-operation with the universities, the British Empire Cancer Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

New methods, including radioactive isotopes and super-voltage machines have been introduced and are being extended, and local authorities are encouraged to undertake educational campaigns. I have further action under constant review, with my Standing Advisory Committee on Cancer and Radiotherapy and with the Medical Research Council.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the feeling among the general public about this terrible complaint? Rightly or wrongly, some feel that not all that might be done is being done. If all that is humanly possible is being done what does the Minister intend to do to allay these fears?

Mr. Macleod

It is very important to keep this matter in perspective. I know perfectly well the anxiety that it causes. Apart from cancer of the lung, of which there has been a considerable increase, the causes of which are still in medical and scientific dispute, and a small number of other sites, the death rate for cancer has not increased when one makes allowance for the increase in the age structure of the population. I think that that should be stated. We are very conscious of this problem. The increase in this particular category is not confined to this country, but we are doing everything we can to combat it.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is the Medical Research Council in touch with the work that is being done on cancer in Holland?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir. Information on cancer research is freely exchanged internationally at all times and much valuable work is being done in that respect.

Mr. Nicholson

Would it not help to allay anxiety if greater emphasis were placed on the fact that cancer is predominantly a disease of old age and that when there is a population of a greater age there is bound to be an increase in the incidence of cancer?

Mr. Macleod

To some extent I indicated that in my answer. I said that, after certain factors have been deducted, the death rate was not increasing when one took the increasing age structure of the population into account.

Mr. Chetwynd

Has the right hon. Gentleman any statement to make from the expert committee which has been looking into the connection between smoking and cancer?

Mr. Macleod

No, Sir, not at this stage.