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Hollande declares new war on cancer

The president is to unveil a new four-year plan to reduce the numberof deaths from the disease

PRESIDENT François Hollande is to unveil today a new plan to cut the number of people who die from cancer each year.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in France with nearly 150,000 victims annually but experts estimate that 40-50% of the 350,000 new cases each year can be avoided through prevention and education.

This third plan in France’s fight against cancer covers the next four years, and follows the publication last August of a report by Professor Jean-Paul Vernant, a haematologist appointed by the president to develop a set of recommendations on the subject.

The professor highlighted social inequality and tobacco as key battlegrounds in the war against cancer.

In December 2012, the President addressed the issue of inequality, stressing that « the risk of dying from cancer between the ages of 30 and 65 (is) two times higher among manual workers than among liberal professions ».

Professor Vernant returned to the theme in his recommendations, which called for corrective action against social inequality.

He also criticised the « shockingly high » cost of new cancer treatments, which can exceed €100,000 per year per patient and called for a «new system of price regulation ».

The anti-smoking lobby has been hoping for an announcement that France’s third cancer plan will renew the «war on tobacco » declared in the original plan, with a significant increase in the price of cigarettes.

Two hundred people die every day in France from smoking-related illnesses.

The president of the French Office for the Prevention of Smoking (OFT), Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, condemned the second cancer plan, which was announced by Nicolas Sarkozy and ran from 2009 to 2013, as a "catastrophe" that resulted in a 2% increase in the number of smokers in five years.

He said: "The President has in his hands tens of thousands of French lives.

"Increases of 20 or 30 centimes are totally ineffective. He should increase the price of a packet of cigarettes by at least €1.50.”

Today’s plan also recommends formalising consultation and treatment methods, and providing for greater involvement for GPs, who are currently largely excluded from the care of cancer patients.

The plan will be formally announced at the National Cancer Institute in Paris today and will focus on five areas: prevention and screening, research, patient care, business/training and practice in oncology, and life during and after cancer.

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