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Oscar Chaffee SIXTY PLUS

Most people greatly desire to reach the proverbial three score and 10 years of age that somehow has become the average age span in the minds of many. However, the U.N. World Health Organization says bad habits could prevent the additional years from being healthier and happier.

In industrial nations, especially, the WHO says, the so-called diseases of the rich are increasing. These include cancers, heart attacks, strokes and some other illnesses. Longer life also can be accompanied by chronic diseases, the WHO said.

The report says that the chance of a healthy old age can be thrown away because of sedentary lifestyles, bad diet and indulgences such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

WHO said that in the next 25 years, the population of people older than 65 is likely to grow by 82 percent, compared to a 46 percent increase in those of working age and only 3 percent in newborns.

The leading causes of death are heart diseases and strokes in most industrial nations.

Cancers killed 6.3 million people in 1996, and there were 10 million new cases, not all of them fatal. The number of cancer cases is expected to at least double in most countries in the next 25 years.

WHO said the increase in some leading causes of death is due at least in part to elimination or reduction in the number of some other fatal diseases, which increases the odds of getting cancer.

However, WHO is concerned about the increase in breast cancer, which killed 375,000 women in 1996. The number of people with diabetes also is rising rapidly.

Meanwhile, WHO notes, progress is being made toward the prevention and cure of cancer. A vaccine has been produced against hepatitis B, which causes liver cancer. There also are hopes for a vaccine against a key virus in stomach cancers.

Oscar Chaffee is a retired Gazette state editor. He can be reached by writing to: Oscar Chaffee; Billings Gazette; P.O. Box 36300; Billings, MT 59107.

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