Mortality rates for cancer have been found to be 4% higher in the Republic than in Northern Ireland.

A cross-border report, compiled by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, also shows that while the number of cancer cases across the island is up, overall the number of cancer deaths has fallen.

The figures cover the period 1994 to 2004.

The report found that 21,000 people each year on the island of Ireland are diagnosed with cancer.

Among the most common forms are breast, colorectal, prostate and lung cancers.

It found the total number of diagnosed cancers rose during the period in question due to population growth, an ageing population and increased detection.

However, increased survival rates were due to improved testing and diagnosis, it said.

Cancer rates are higher in large urban areas and in areas that are economically less well-off.

Read the report here

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the there are two reasons why Northern Ireland has a lower cancer mortality rate than the Republic.

The Minister said that Northern Ireland had centralised its cancer services 14 years ago and so was ahead of the Republic in this regard.

She also said that Northern Ireland has had screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer for some time.

But Ms Harney insisted the Republic's cancer services were improving. She said by the end of this year Ireland would be 'among the top three countries in the world for breast cancer treatment services'.