Cancer Rates Could
Rise 50 Percent by 2020
Global rates of cancer could rise 50
percent to 15 million new cases a year by 2020, but one-third
can be cured and another third prevented by curbing infections
and through lifestyle changes, experts said on Thursday.
Once considered a largely "Western"
disease, cancer now affects and kills more people in the developing
world than in industrialized nations. In many countries it accounts
for more than a quarter of all deaths.
But according to the World Cancer
Report, with existing knowledge it is possible to prevent at least
one third of the 10 million cancer cases that occur each year
throughout the world.
"By 2020 there will be a 50 percent
increase in the number of people diagnosed with cancer unless
steps are taken now," said Dr. Bernard Stewart, a co-editor of
"The overall message is that we
can prevent a third of cancers, we can probably cure a third of
cancers, and for the remainder we can certainly do something for
quality of life if pain management is adequate," he told a news
TOBACCO, DIET AND INFECTIONS
The report by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World
Health Organization (WHO), calls for action to stem smoking, improve
diet and physical activity and to prevent infections, in order
to curb the disease that kills six million people worldwide each
Tobacco consumption is the most
important avoidable cancer risk worldwide. An estimated 100 million
people died of tobacco-related diseases in the 20th century, the
Smokers have a 20- to 30-times
greater risk of lung cancer, and higher-than-average odds of developing
bladder, stomach, liver, kidney and oral-cavity cancers, it added.
Health experts predict the biggest
reduction in cancer deaths in the coming decades will be due to
But the report says changes in
diet -- including eating more fruits and vegetables -- increasing
exercise and preventing infections such as the hepatitis B and
C viruses and other infections linked to liver, cervical and stomach
cancers, will also make inroads.
"We know that there is a growing
body of evidence on the effectiveness of those interventions,"
said the WHO's Dr. Rafael Bengoa.
National screening programs to
detect tumors early, before they spread to other parts of the
body, have produced spectacular results with some types of cancer.
Bengoa emphasized the need for
better detection and screening in the developing world, because
80 percent of cancer patients have incurable tumors by the time
they are diagnosed.
Up to 23 percent of cancers in
poor nations are caused by infections, compared with about eight
percent in wealthier countries, so vaccinations could be a key
preventive tool, according to experts.
Vaccination has been shown to prevent
stomach cancer in high-incidence countries. And researchers hope
to have a vaccine against human papillomavirus, aimed at preventing
cervical cancer, in three to five years, the report said.
Access to chemotherapy and palliative
drugs is another problem in poor countries where treatments only
reach the rich who can afford them. Bengoa said he would like
to see differential pricing for expensive cancer drugs.
Reference Source 89