Almost half of all deaths in Ireland last year were cancer related, a new report suggests.

A breakdown of almost 2,000 payouts on life assurance cover during 2011 showed that 44 percent were cancer related. Two-thirds of claims for serious illness were also cancer related, according to Irish Life.

Breast cancer was the most common followed by prostrate and colon cancer.

The data follows a warning from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) that new cases of cancer in Ireland could increase 72 percent by 2030. The WCRF announced on Saturday that Ireland was the worst country in the European Union for cancer related illnesses.
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Heart disease was the next biggest illness for Irish Life death claims, with almost a fifth (18 percent) of deaths linked to the illness.

Martin Duffy , the head of claims with Irish Life said the data underlined the continued threat of cancer in Ireland.

"While we've made enormous progress, the reality is that cancer continues to be a dominant cause of illness and death in Ireland," he said.