• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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World Cancer Day: Aging, alcohol fuel cancer crisis as 35m new cases loom

World Cancer Day: Make a good hygiene alternative

A specter of illness hangs over World Cancer Day this year, as a sobering projection casts a long shadow on the future of global health.

By 2050, a staggering 35 million new cancer cases are expected to engulf the world, mainly fueled by aging and alcohol consumption, marking a 77 percent increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The rapidly growing global cancer burden is attributed to both population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development.

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Tobacco, alcohol and obesity are key factors behind the increasing incidence of cancer, with air pollution still a key driver of environmental risk factors, WHO says.

In terms of the absolute burden, high high development index (HDI) countries are expected to experience the greatest absolute increase in incidence, with an additional 4.8 million new cases predicted in 2050 compared with 2022 estimates.

Yet the proportional increase in incidence is most striking in low HDI countries (142 percent increase) and in medium HDI countries (99 percent). Likewise, cancer mortality in these countries is projected to almost double in 2050.

“The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries of different HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden,” says Dr Freddie Bray, Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC.

“Despite the progress that has been made in the early detection of cancers and the treatment and care of cancer patients–significant disparities in cancer treatment outcomes exist not only between high and low-income regions of the world, but also within countries. Where someone lives should not determine whether they live. Tools exist to enable governments to prioritise cancer care, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services. This is not just a resource issue but a matter of political will,” says Dr Cary Adams, head of UICC – Union for International Cancer Control.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in the latest estimates of the global burden of cancer from 115 countries shows a majority of countries do not adequately finance priority cancer and palliative care services, as part of universal health coverage (UHC).

The IARC estimates highlight the growing burden of cancer, the disproportionate impact on underserved populations, and the urgent need to address cancer inequities worldwide.

In 2022, there were an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths.

The estimated number of people who were alive within 5 years following a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million.

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About 1 in 5 people develop cancer in their lifetime, approximately 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women die from the disease.

The global WHO survey on UHC and cancer shows that only 39 percent of participating countries covered the basics of cancer management as part of their financed core health services for all citizens, ‘health benefit packages’ (HBP).

Only 28 percent of participating countries additionally covered care for people who require palliative care, including pain relief in general, and not just linked to cancer.

3 major cancer types in 2022:

The new estimates available on IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory show that 10 types of cancer collectively comprised around two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally in 2022. Data covers 185 countries and 36 cancers.

Lung cancer was the most commonly occurring cancer worldwide with 2.5 million new cases accounting for 12.4 percent of the total new cases.

Female breast cancer ranked second (2.3 million cases, 11.6 percent), followed by colorectal cancer (1.9 million cases, 9.6 percent), prostate cancer (1.5 million cases, 7.3 percent), and stomach cancer (970 000 cases, 4.9 percent).

Lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death (1.8 million deaths, 18.7 percent of the total cancer deaths) followed by colorectal cancer (900 000 deaths, 9.3 percent), liver cancer (760 000 deaths, 7.8 percent), breast cancer (670 000 deaths, 6.9 percent) and stomach cancer (660 000 deaths, 6.8 percent). Lung cancer’s re-emergence as the most common cancer is likely related to persistent tobacco use in Asia.

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There were some differences by sex in incidence and mortality from the global total for both sexes. For women, the most commonly diagnosed cancer and leading cause of cancer death was breast cancer, whereas it was lung cancer for men. Breast cancer was the most common cancer in women in the vast majority of countries (157 of 185).

For men, prostate and colorectal cancers were the second and third most commonly occurring cancers, while liver and colorectal cancers were the second and third most common causes of cancer death. For women, lung and colorectal cancer were second and third for both the number of new cases and of deaths.

Cervical cancer was the eighth most commonly occurring cancer globally and the ninth leading cause of cancer death, accounting for 661 044 new cases and 348 186 deaths. It is the most common cancer in women in 25 countries, many of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Even while recognising varying incidence levels, cervical cancer can be eliminated as a public health problem, through the scale-up of the WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative.