The disparity in the rate of mammography screening that existed between Jewish and Arab Israelis has been eliminated, thus reducing the mortality rate of breast cancer in Arab women – but haredi and immigrant women are still five to 10 percent less likely to go for a breast exam than the rest of the population.

This was revealed on Sunday by the Israel Cancer Association, which held a press conference announcing that its annual Knock on the Door fund-raising campaign will be held on Monday, October 22 and that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun.

This year’s chairman of the ICA campaign is headed by Dudi Weissman, president of the Alon Group. He and ICA officials appeared at the President’s Residence on Sunday to mark the launching of the campaign.

Weissmann, an important donor to the effort whose businesses are supporters of the associations’s work to help cancer patients and their families, noted that the ICA’s 52nd fund-raising campaign was more necessary than ever because the voluntary organization receives no government subsidies.

Israel is the fifth among 19 Western countries for breast cancer prevalence – after Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands – but fortunately, death rates from the tumor in Israelis are in ninth place and declining.

It was also announced that women who had already been diagnosed with breast cancer and had it treated have a 24% risk of contracting any kind of cancer.

The ICA is also considering the possibility of recommending that all women be screened for defective BRCA genes that significantly raise the risk of contracting breast cancer, especially at young ages, and that only 30% of women who are entitled to genetic screening by their health fund actually do so.

Research has shown the the number of deaths prevented by mammography is significantly higher than the number of women who were over-diagnosed and over-treated as a result of the breast scan.

Cancer experts also said it would be possible to prevent 5,000 deaths a year from cancer by people adopting a healthy lifestyle of exercise, proper diet and non-smoking, as well as early screening of common diseases.

Money raised in the Knock On the Door campaign will be used to purchase advanced medical equipment for medical institutions that treat cancer patients, fund oncology research, develop screening projects, finance nurses and social workers in community clinics and hospitals and carry out other work.

Today, there are 200,000 Israelis who have been treated for, or cured of cancer and 28,000 new cases, including 400 children, each year. Today, 75% of children with cancer recover.

Dr. Lital Boker-Keinan, head of the Israel Cancer Registry and deputy director of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control, said that breast cancer is the most common malignant tumor in women.

One out of every 7.5 Jewish women and one in 14 Arab women will have breast cancer during their lifetimes.

After an increase in the 90s, the breast cancer rate in Jewish women has become stable since 2000, while as Arab women live a more Westernized lifestyle, their rate has risen. But recovery rates are higher due to early detection and treatment.

Lung cancer is the deadliest in men and breast cancer in women, while colorectal cancer is number two in both sexes.

Numerous studies have shown that working night shifts increases the breast cancer in women and various types of cancer, including colorectal, lung, prostate, bladder and pancreatic and non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, in men. The blame is put mainly on exposure to artificial light at night, when the natural hormone melatonin should be produced in the brain in darkness. But the ICA said that more research is needed to pin down the causes.

President Shimon Peres, hosting the opening of the ICA campaign at his residence, said he hopes every Israeli will contribute to it.

“One of the ways to cure cancer is hope, and you volunteers rescue cancer patients from their great loneliness and give them warmth, attention and hope.”

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