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Living in Devon and Cornwall is good for your health - and that's official

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 26, 2014

By Lyn Barton, WMN reporter, Twitter: @BartonLyn

WC life

Living in the Westcountry is good for your health, according to new online tool

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The Westcountry is a picture of health according to the first ever atlas to pin down levels of serious and fatal diseases.

The map, which contains data taken down to postcode level, reveals striking variations in the incidences of conditions such as lung cancer or heart disease across the nation.

It shows that people living in Devon and Cornwall have the highest risk of skin cancer, a finding in tune with the latest research which said cases of malignant melanoma in South-West England have “dramatically increased.”

However, the map generally reveals that people in Devon and Cornwall have among the lowest incidences of conditions like liver cancer or stillbirth.

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Stuart Bourne, deputy director of public health at Cornwall Council and Simon Chant, public health specialist at Devon County Council, said welcomed the fact that the atlas illustrated people in the two counties enjoyed good health.

However, they both said work was under way to tackle the skin cancer rates.

Mr Bourne said: “For Cornwall, the maps do illustrate the higher risk of skin cancer compared to many other parts of England, but they also show the higher daily duration of sunshine which is a key risk factor leading to greater exposure to harmful UV radiation.”

Mr Chant said: “The health map shows Devon as having a higher than national risk of skin cancer and this is one of the key priorities highlighted in our joint strategic needs assessment for action, and is the focus of a major campaign being launched next month.”

The online tool, www.envhealthatlas.co.uk, has been published by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit at Imperial College London.

As well as mapping health variations, it also details air quality, levels of sunshine and pesticides, and chlorine by-products in the water supply.

It reveals that skin cancer is most common in the South West of England, with women at a higher risk than men of being diagnosed.

However the picture for other serious diseases is considerably rosier with statisticians keen to point out that apparently random hotspots for a disease can by just one case but in a sparely populated area.

In terms of bladder cancer, the map appears to suggest a slightly elevated risk in St Ives North, but the rest of Devon and Cornwall is either average or below.

There are low rates of lung cancer across the Westcountry, with the only hotspots being an above average risk in Devonport and Torpoint West.

Equally, breast cancer rates hover around the average - either slightly above or below, mark, as do risk of leukaemia, prostate or liver cancer and mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer usually associated with heavy industry.

Take a look at the interactive atlas here

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  • DevonEagle  |  April 26 2014, 6:14PM

    Pointless statistics. How about this one.... I lived in London for 45 an suffered no illnesses whatsoever. Yet since living down here I have not been so lucky. Does that mean people are 100% more likely to be unwell in the South West than in London? Statistically it is true but once again a totally pointless stat. What might be more interesting would be the figures of how many more people recover from these health challenges simply because they live down here.

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