4 Feb 2008
WORLD CANCER DAY - 4th February 2008

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has announced its 2007 World Cancer Data Update and 2008 Statement of Cancer Challenges.

The UN funded organisation collates data from around the globe and suggests trends in cancer and coordinated means of prevention.

This is especially important given that worldwide deaths from cancer exceed those from AIDS, Malaria and TB combined, according to IARC.

Given the continuing growth and ageing of the world’s population, the impact on the global burden of cancer incidence and cancer mortality is set to be substantial.

IARC claim that the majority of the global cancer burden has now shifted from westernised, developed countries several decades ago to medium- and low-resource countries today.

Regions with a large proportion of countries of low- or medium-resource are hardest hit and the impact in such countries, still faced with the burden of infectious disease and a low budget for health, will be considerable in terms of the treatment needs and the costs of treatment.

More data would help the fight against cancer; less than 20% of the world’s population is covered by cancer registration and, in 2000, 30% by mortality registration schemes. In Africa less than 0.1% of the population is covered by medically certified cause of death schemes, in Asia only 8.5% of the population is covered.

The corresponding population coverage for cancer incidence statistics is 8% in Africa, 7% in Asia and 10% in Latin America. In the absence of data from large portions of the population, estimations of the burden of cancer incidence and mortality in each World Health Organisation Region have been made making maximum use of all data sources available to the IARC.

Neither the number of new cases of cancer nor the number of deaths caused by cancer is available for many parts of the world. In order to move towards cancer prevention and control world wide the magnitude and nature of the cancer burden must first be understood.

IARC estimates for 2000 suggest that there were 10.4 million new cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide, 6.5 million deaths from cancer, and over 25 million persons alive with cancer five years after diagnosis. Taking account of the growth and ageing of the world’s population, based on various assumptions regarding trends in cancer risk, by 2030 they expect that there will be 20 to 25 million incident cases of cancer, and 13 to 16 million cancer deaths annually.

According to IARC, effective cancer control measures and capacity building are essential to curb this trend.

The WHO Resolution on Cancer Control provides a strong impetus for countries to develop programmes aimed at the reduction of cancer incidence and mortality.

IARC identifies several causes of global cancer incidence and mortality. These include an increasingly ‘westernised’ lifestyle in poorer countries, combined with an aging of the population as people live longer, increasing age at first birth, and tobacco use.

In conclusion IARC identified several key ‘Cancer Challenges’ for 2008:

• Prevent those cancers that can be prevented
• Treat cancers which can be treated
• Cure those cancers which can be cured
• Provide palliation whenever it is required
• Take action against tobacco world-wide
• Implement what is known to reduce cancer risk
• Develop concerted action against breast cancer
• Develop concerted action against cancer of the cervix

Watch Peter Boyle, Director of IARC, speak to ecancertv about the impending cancer epidemic here.