Global battle against cancer won't be won with treatment alone

Global battle against cancer won’t be won with treatment alone

Effective prevention measures urgently needed to prevent cancer crisis.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, is today launching World Cancer Report 2014, a collaboration of over 250 leading scientists from more than 40 countries, describing multiple aspects of cancer research and control.

Based on the latest statistics on trends in cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, this new book reveals how the cancer burden is growing at an alarming pace and emphasizes the need for urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease.

“Despite exciting advances, this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem.  More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.  The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being.  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”.
Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and co-editor of the book.

Increasing global burden of cancer
In 2012, the worldwide burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades.  Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million annually to 13 million per year.  Globally, in 2012 the most common cancers diagnosed were those of the lung (1.8 million cases, 13% of the total), liver (0.8 million, 9.1%), and stomach (0.7 million, 8.8%).

In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach US$1.16 trillion dollars.  Yet half of all cancers could be avoided.

The rising incidence of cancers of the lung, breast and bowel are associated with industrialised lifestyles.  Lessons from cancer control measures in high-income countries show that prevention works but that health promotion alone is insufficient.  Adequate legislation plays an important role in reducing exposure and risk behaviours.

For instance, the first international treaty sponsored by WHO, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has been critical in reducing tobacco consumption through taxes, advertising restrictions, and other regulations and measures to control and discourage the use of tobacco.

Similar approaches also need to be evaluated in other areas, notably consumption of alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages, and in limiting exposure to occupational and environmental carcinogenic risks, including air pollution.

“Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognised role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants.  In low- and middle-income countries, it is critical that governments commit to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans”
Dr Bernard W. Stewart, co-editor of World Cancer Report 2014.  

Stewart BW, Wild CP, editors (2014). World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organisation (WHO).


Posted: Friday 21 February 2014