Cancer workers are gearing up for World Cancer Day this week to raise awareness about a disease that kills hundreds of Northlanders every year.
Northland Cancer  Society area manager Margaret Curry said Thursday  was World Cancer Day, a day that raised awareness of cancer and encouraged its prevention, detection and treatment.
Ms Curry said the region had some of the highest cancer rates in the country - particularly for Maori - and raising more awareness of the disease was the start of reducing those statistics.
Figures from 2005, the most  recent available, show that while the New Zealand rate of new cancer diagnosis was 472 per 100,000, in Northland it was 531 for Maori and 490 for non-Maori.
For the same year, the national cancer death rate was 201 per 100,000 population, in Northland it was 366 for Maori and 203 for non-Maori.
The Cancer Society's latest research shows that skin cancer alone costs the health system more than $57 million a year, with malignant melanoma killing more than 200 Kiwis every year.
Ms Curry said one of the saddest things about the disease was that up to 43 per cent of cancers could be prevented.
She said they could be prevented through: providing a smoke-free environment for children; being physically active; eating a balanced, healthy diet and avoiding obesity; learning about vaccines for virus-related liver and cervical cancers and avoiding over-exposure to the sun.
As well as raising awareness about the disease, World Cancer Day  reminds people of what  they can do to reduce the risks, Ms Curry says.
"When it comes to the figures [for cancer] we are way up there and we are contributing to it by our behaviour."
She said with its high Maori population, high number of people living in lower socio-economic circumstances and the unforgiving sun, Northland already had a number of high cancer risk factors.
Ms Curry said early detection was one of the keys to fighting cancer but in Northland many people could not afford to get regular GP check-ups, while lack of knowledge could be another contributing factor.
She hoped that  World Cancer Day would inspire more people to become voluntary helpers for the Cancer Society.