Chairperson, according to the World Health Organisation, more people die from cancer than from Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Not being a notifiable or reportable disease in South Africa, very little data was available on cancer for research or to inform policy interventions; but new legislation in 2011 requires all doctors and health facilities that confirm cancer cases to report findings to the National Cancer Registry. This is a welcome development which must not be neglected.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in South African males and cervical cancer is the top cancer affecting South African women. The social and economic impact of cancer affects the individual, the family and the community with job loss, economic dependence, social isolation and family tensions, often following the occurrence of cancer.
It is also a difficult subject in some communities, but talking about the disease can help alleviate feelings of shock, fear, anger, sadness and loneliness that come with being diagnosed with cancer. We must ensure that primary health care workers are being equipped with knowledge and skills to recognise warning signs and symptoms of cancer as early detection of the disease makes a significant difference.
However, prevention is recognised as the most cost-effective and sustainable way of reducing the cancer burden. Living a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritious diet, exercising and not smoking or consuming alcohol can greatly decrease the chances of getting cancer. Obesity is a high predictor of certain types of cancers.
The ACDP notes hon Ambrosini's Medical Innovation Bill - a Bill which aims to legalise cannabis in South Africa for medical, economic and industrial purposes; and we are sensitive to this controversial and complex issue. We do not and will not endorse recreational use of cannabis or any attempts to move in this direction. However, we are mindful that presently morphine - a form of heroine, is used for pain control for terminally ill cancer patients. Morphine is toxic and lethal as it actively speeds up the death of the patients.
The National Cancer Institute of South Africa says substances in cannabis may be helpful for treating pain that is not relieved by conventional medicines; and recent research has shown cannabinoids to have the ability to reduce cancer cells as they have a good effect on the rebuilding of the immune system.
The knee-jerk reaction to legal use of cannabis is based on people's own experience and on many years of studies. Cannabis is known to impair learning capabilities and psychomotor performance in a wide variety of tasks, for as long as 24 hours after smoking as little as 20 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, in cannabis. Prolonged use can lead to greater impairment, affecting daily life functions and causing cannabis dependence.
Hon Ambrosini, in principle the ACDP supports calls for clinical trials which would either prove or disprove claims being made regarding any potential treatment for cancer patients, but we will be consulting widely, and we are praying for you. [Applause.]