WHO Report Warns Of Impending Global Cancer Disaster

[ Watch the Video: World Cancer Day 2014 ]

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Coinciding with World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) released the World Cancer Report 2014, which highlights the need for health professionals around the world to strengthen prevention efforts on a disease that is quickly becoming a global health disaster.

The report maintains that the “global battle against cancer won’t be won with treatment alone [and] effective prevention measures [are] urgently needed to prevent cancer crisis.”

The World Cancer Report 2014 is a collaboration of more than 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 across the world, the new report reveals how the cancer burden is growing at an alarming rate and emphasizes the need for urgent implementation of prevention protocols to curb the deadly disease.

“Despite exciting advances, this Report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” warned Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and co-editor of the World Cancer Report 2014. “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 report estimates that cancer cases worldwide will rise from 14 million new cases per year now to more than 22 million new cases per year within two decades, a 57 percent increase. Over the same twenty-year period, cancer deaths are expected to rise similarly, from 8.2 million to 13 million annually.

In 2012, the most common cancers diagnosed were lung (1.8 million cases), breast (1.7 million cases) and large bowel (1.4 million cases). The most common causes of cancer death were lung (1.6 million), liver (0.8 million) and stomach (0.7 million).

While cancer is a burden the world over, no place is perhaps harder hit than underdeveloped nations. The report says that more than 60 percent of all cancer cases occur in countries in Africa, Asia and Central and South America – typically where early detection and treatment programs do not exist. These countries also face the burden of accounting for 70 percent of all cancer deaths around the world.

To reverse these trends, better access to effective and affordable cancer treatment programs in developing countries are needed, especially for childhood cancers. Better diagnostic and treatment programs would go a long way in reducing the mortality rates in such countries, even in settings where healthcare services are less well-developed.

However, even the richest countries are experiencing hardships in trying to win the war on cancer, due to the spiraling costs associated with cancer research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment programs and it will only get worse as the number of cases rise. This will make it even more difficult for cancer help to reach developing nations, putting an even greater strain on the global healthcare system.

“In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach approximately US$ 1.16 trillion. Yet about half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge was adequately implemented,” reads a statement on the report.

“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,” stressed Dr Wild.

While many countries continue to struggle with the double burden of high infection-related cancers – i.e. cervix, liver, stomach – and the rising incidence of cancers – i.e. lung, breast, large bowel – that are associated with industrialized lifestyles, the report authors maintain that implementation of effective vaccine programs can reduce some cancers.

Vaccines given for protection against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus have shown the ability to significantly reduce cancer risks associated with liver and cervix, respectively.

As well, a number of preventable cancer measures can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of disease. These include smoking cessation, alcohol avoidance, obesity and inactivity avoidance, reducing radiation exposure (both from the sun and medical scans), and avoiding air pollution and environmental factors.

In regards to smoking and other forms of tobacco use, cessation campaigns have gone a long way to reduce the exposure and risk behaviors associated with tobacco use. Some of these cancer control measures in high-income countries have worked well, but adequate legislation plays a much bigger role in reducing overall exposure and risk behaviors, the authors stressed.

The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has been one legislative measure that has been critical in reducing tobacco consumption through taxes, advertising restrictions and other regulations to control and discourage the use of tobacco.

The report also maintains that similar approaches would do well for other risky behaviors, such as those associated with alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

“Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants,” report coauthor Dr Bernard Stewart, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said in a statement. “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.”

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