GENEVA, Switzerland, February 4, 2014 (ENS) – Cancer is now the world’s biggest killer, and the number of cases will explode over the next 20 years, warns a new global report compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization.
The “World Cancer Report,” released on World Cancer Day, finds that there were 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012. It predicts that cancer cases worldwide will rise by 75 percent and reach close to 25 million over next two decades.
“The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being,” says IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild. “These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception.”
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It can affect almost any part of the body. The growths often invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize to distant sites.
These changes are the result of the interaction between a person’s genetic factors and three categories of external agents:
- physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation
- chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, pesticides and herbicides, aflatoxin, a food contaminant, and arsenic, a drinking water contaminant
- biological carcinogens, such as infections from viruses, bacteria or parasites
Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer, causing about 22 percent of global cancer deaths and about 71 percent of global lung cancer deaths, warns the World Health Organization.
Global cancer incidence over four years increased by 11 percent to an estimated 14.1 million cases in 2012 – equal to the population of Mumbai, India’s largest city.
The World Cancer Report 2014, issued on World Cancer Day, marked annually on February 4, confirms that inequality exists in cancer control and care globally.
The number of deaths due to the disease among the world’s poor is growing at a faster rate than previously expected. By 2025 almost 80 percent of the increase in the number of all cancer deaths will occur in less developed regions.
Unlike the developed countries, a large proportion of cancers in developing nations are caused by infections, such as the human papilloma virus, which accounts for more than 85 percent of all HPV-related cancer cases.
As these countries adopt a more western lifestyle, levels of smoking, alcohol use and a lack of physical activity, all known risk factors for cancer, are increasing.
Low-income and middle-income countries are most at risk of cancer overwhelming their health systems and hindering economic growth, as they have the least resources and infrastructure to cope with the predicted levels of disease escalation.
Worryingly, according to the World Health Organization, only 50 percent of low-income and middle-income countries have operational National Cancer Control Plans.
Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control, UICC, said,”Governments must recognize the growing cancer burden in their country. The new figures from IARC show that the incidence of cancer globally will continue to grow unless we recognize the threat and act on it now.”
UICC is the largest cancer-fighting organization of its kind, with over 800 member organizations across 155 countries, representing the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centers and patient groups.
“On World Cancer Day, we demand that governments around the world move to stop the millions of predicted, needless and premature deaths caused by cancer by developing and implementing a national plan which includes proven preventive and early detection measures,” said Adams.
Practical solutions to reduce premature deaths must have prevention as their cornerstone, Adams says. These include development of national cancer control plans, awareness programs against modifiable risks factors, cancer screening programs, and introduction of HPV vaccination programs.