Half of cancers are now preventable, but new cases could rise by 70 per cent in 20 years

Half of cancers are now preventable, but new cases could rise by 70 per cent in 20 years

 

The future global burden of cancer will increasingly shift to poorer countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said – but half of all world cancers are now preventable with existing medical knowledge and expertise.

 

Overall, the number of new cancer cases worldwide in a single year will rise by 70 per cent over the next two decades from 14.1 million in 2012 to 24 million in 2035, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in their latest World Cancer Report. Annual deaths from cancer will almost double in the same time period from 8.2 million to 14.6 million.

 

Less developed countries will see an increase in cancer incidence – the number of new cases per year – of 44 per cent in the next decade, whereas in richer countries, incidence rates will only increase by 20 per cent. The inequalities are largely down to varying levels of access to both cancer treatments preventative healthcare – such as screening programmes and vaccines for cancers caused by infections like the human papilloma virus (HPV). However, the gap between countries will widen as people in less developed nations increasingly adopt “industrialised lifestyles” – smoking and drinking more, and eating more highly processed food.

 

Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC and co-editor of the World Cancer Report 2014 said it was clear the world would never “treat its way out of cancer” and emphasised the role that prevention should play in years to come. “Since the middle of the last century, enormous progress has been made in identifying the causes of cancer, so that more than 50 per cent of cases could be prevented based on current knowledge,” he writes, in the report’s preface. “…Collectively this knowledge provides a huge potential for reducing the cancer burden; one can only imagine the interest that would follow an announcement of the availability of new cancer treatments able to cure 50 per cent of patients. Therefore prevention must be writ large in cancer control plans if we are to defy the dark prediction of the statistics.”

 

Smoking is responsible for around 20 per cent of all cancers globally and lung cancers are the most common form of cancer in the world, accounting for 13 per cent of all cases and 19 per cent of all cancer deaths. However, Dr Wild said that the lessons learned from the fight against tobacco, which has included legislation from many countries in the form taxation, bans on advertising, and bans on smoking in public places, may need to applied to other areas of cancer prevention, such as reducing alcohol intake.

 

By Charlie Cooper,

 

The Independent, the 3rd of February, 2014.

 

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