World Cancer Day: cases worldwide are predicted to increase 70% in the next two decades

Medicine has made big strides in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, however the number of people to be affected by cancer is expected to rise 70% within the next two decades according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released for World Cancer Day (4th February).

The IARC is the specialized cancer research agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), in their latest global analysis - World Cancer Report 2014 - is predicting that cancer cases will rise to 22 million per year within the next twenty years.

The official report also stated that in 2012 — the latest year for which data is available — new cancer cases rose to an estimated 14.1 million a year from 12.7 million in 2008, while the number of cancer deaths could likely rise from the currently estimated 8.2 million to 13 million per year.

In 2012, the most common cancers diagnosed were those of the lung (1.8 million cases, 13.0% of the total), breast (1.7 million, 11.9%), and large bowel (1.4 million, 9.7%).

The most common causes of cancer death were cancers of the lung (1.6 million, 19.4% of the total), liver (0.8 million, 9.1%), and stomach (0.7 million,8.8%).

Sixty per cent of the world's total cases are occurring in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, and these regions account for about 70 per cent of the world's cancer deaths due to lack of early detection and access to treatment.

“We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” Christopher Wild, director of the IARC and one of the co-editor’s of the report, said in a statement. “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 also stated that the spiralling costs of the cancer treatment are placing a burden on the economies of even the richest countries.

In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach approximately US$ 1.16 trillion, but half of all cancers could be prevented if current knowledge on prevention was implemented.

The IARC is calling for screening campaigns as well as vaccinations to help stop infection-related cancers like cervical and liver tumors in developing countries, “which are an investment rather than a cost,” while for rising incidence of cancers in industrialized countries they are pushing for governments to help promote campaigns to discourage certain life-style choices that can increase the risk of cancer.

The report also asks to evaluate measures in reducing the consumption of alcohol and sugar- sweetened beverages, in a similar manner to what many countries have done and are continuing to do against tobacco.

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