EDMONTON - Alberta needs to prepare for a dramatic increase in new cancer cases expected within the next 15 years, says the Canadian Cancer Society.
A report released Wednesday says the number of diagnosed cases in the province is forecast to jump by about 60 per cent compared with the national average of 40 per cent.
"A 60 per cent increase in cancer cases in Alberta will push us beyond our capacity to provide the care and support cancer patients deserve," said Sarah Hawkins, a public policy analyst with the society.
An estimated 28,140 people in the province will be diagnosed with cancer in 2030, up from about 17,000 this year, the report says.
The society notes that the Alberta increase will be due to population growth, including many more people over 65, and not because of an increase in a person's risk of developing the disease.
The society suggests Alberta should improve cancer care and prevention efforts, including screening, to deal with the expected increase.
Hawkins said the provincial government needs to complete "a desperately needed" new cancer centre in Calgary to serve people in southern Alberta.
"The cancer care infrastructure in Calgary has been overcapacity and splintered across the city for a decade."
Tim Wilson, press secretary for Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, said the government is reviewing the report and is planning to take action.
Wilson said the government is preparing to provide people with an update on the Calgary cancer centre.
"It is notable that Alberta cancer rates are rising 50 per cent faster than the rest of Canada, and this shows that the plan to put more resources into health care is absolutely the right policy today," Wilson said.
"We understand there are many partners and cancer-care providers and patients and families who want to hear an update about the Calgary cancer centre. We are hoping for that soon."
The province has been promising a new cancer centre since 2006. Construction was to begin this year, but the government shelved the plan due to falling energy prices. Former premier Jim Prentice promised a new centre would be built by 2020.
The society is also strongly encouraging Alberta to ban menthol-flavoured tobacco products and to expand other tobacco control measures, such as tax increases.
The province passed a law in 2013 to ban flavoured tobacco, but decided earlier this year not to include the minty flavour.
"Any legitimate effort to reduce youth tobacco use must include a ban on menthol-flavoured tobacco products," Hawkins said.
"One in three Alberta youth smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to one in 20 adult smokers."
Premier Rachel Notley said that the NDP opposed the exclusion of menthol from the ban and suggested her government may change the flavoured-tobacco policy that is to go into effect Monday.
"We are in the course of getting briefings and having discussions about it and I expect you will see an announcement from us in the very few days to come," she said Wednesday in Calgary.
Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec plan to ban menthol-flavoured tobacco.