Cancer Surveillance Project

Department of Occupational and Environmental Health

The relationship between cancer and the environment is poorly understood. While environmental factors such as environmental tobacco smoke, diet and occupational exposures have been shown in several studies to be associated with cancer outcomes, the relationship to ambient industrial pollution is less clear. In the case of South Africa, limited resources and the lack of an appropriate cancer registry data restricts research and understanding of cancer trends and incidence that in turn leads to not being able to influence or evaluate the National Cancer Control Programme. This is the reason that eThekwini Municipality’s Department of Health commissioned a feasibility study on establishment of eThekwini Cancer Registry in the Metro.

This project, Cancer & the Environment Surveillance Project is a continuation of the eThekwini Cancer Registry project completed in February 2008 (see Report) also conducted by the DOEH. In the previous study it was recognised that establishment of a functioning cancer registry was a challenge because cancer was not a reportable disease in South Africa as is the case in other countries that have it. With South African legislation that will cancer a reportable disease in process, eThekwini Municipality had embarked on an initiative of setting a structure, Cancer and Environment Surveillance Unit (CESU), that will amongst it functions collect cancer cases, therefore establishing a database that will be a baseline for future population-based cancer registry for eThekwini Metro.

The objective of Cancer & the Environment Surveillance Project is to determine the relationship between cancer outcomes and environmental risk factors among communities in Durban. To achieve this objective, the project will embark on the following:

  1. Establish a Cancer and Environment Surveillance Unit (CESU) which will continue collecting data.
  2. Collect complete and accurate data on all cancers diagnosed within the communities constituting the south Durban region within eThekwini Municipality;
  3. Identify, through intensive case follow-up, environmental and personal risk factors for the development of cancer within these communities and;
  4. Provide information base for cancer epidemiological, genetic and clinical research.

The stakeholders in this project are all public and private, non-governmental organisations, medical practitioners, cancer patients and their next-of-kin, as well as the communities’ members that come into contact with cancer patients.

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