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Tue 4 Feb 2014 11:26 AM

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Cancer rates “growing at alarming pace”

Action urged on smoking, drinking and obesity - WHO

Cancer rates “growing at alarming pace”
Cancer was growing "at an alarming pace" worldwide and new strategies are needed to curb the sometimes fatal and often costly disease, a World Health Organisation (WHO) agency said.

Cancer was growing "at an alarming pace" worldwide and new strategies are needed to curb the sometimes fatal and often costly disease, a World Health Organisation (WHO) agency said.

Governments must make better use of vaccines and preventative public health policies in the fight against cancer as treatment alone cannot stem the disease, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said.

"It's untenable to think we can treat our way out of the cancer problem. That alone will not be a sufficient response," Christopher Wild, IARC's director and co-editor of its World Cancer Report 2014, told reporters at a London briefing.

"More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed... to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally."

The World Cancer Report, which is only produced roughly once every five years, involved a collaboration of around 250 scientists from more than 40 countries.

It said access to effective and relatively inexpensive cancer drugs would significantly cut death rates, even in places where health-care services are less well developed.

The spiralling costs of cancer are hurting the economies of even the richest countries and are often way beyond the reach of poorer nations. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated at around $1.16 trillion.

Yet around half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge about cancer prevention was properly implemented, Wild told reporters.

The report said that in 2012 - the latest year for which data are available - new cancer cases rose to an estimated 14 million a year, a figure expected to grow to 22 million within the next two decades.

Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2m a year to 13m per year.

The data mean that at current rates, one in five men and one in six women worldwide will develop cancer before they reach 75 years old, while one in eight men and one in 12 women will die from the disease.

In 2012, the most common cancers diagnosed were lung, breast and colon or bowel cancers, while the most common causes of cancer death were lung, liver and stomach cancers.

As populations across the world are both growing and ageing, IARC said developing countries were disproportionately affected by the increasing numbers of cancers.

"Behind each one of these numbers, there's an individual and a family faced with a tragic situation," Wild said.

More than 60 percent of the world's total cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, and these regions account for about 70 percent of the world's cancer deaths, it said. The situation is made worse in poorer countries by the lack of early detection and access to treatment.

"Governments must show political commitment to progressively step up the implementation of high-quality screening and early detection programmes, which are an investment rather than a cost," said Bernard Stewart, another co-editor of the report.

The experts highlighted efforts to curb rates of smoking, the use of vaccines to prevent infections that cause cervical and liver cancers and policies aimed at bringing down rates of obesity as key areas in which more should be done.

"Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour," said Stewart.

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Canuck 6 years ago

Doesn't help that in the UAE (possibly the entire Middle East) smoking is made to be such a tolerable practice. I smoked for 27 years and recently quit and will never, ever go back again. I would have quite long before but being 1/5th the price of a pack , back home and the ability to smoke almost anywhere (inside public places) unlike home where you can't smoke within 20 feet of any public place and with no taxes (that's self-explanatory) worked against my fortitude and willpower. I have a chance at being cancer free (unlike many of my hereditary relations) so let's hope that we can eradicate smoking "ease" in the UAE. Even when I smoked, I preferred to do so outside where it wasn't drifting into the lungs of a child or any non-smoker.

SAM 6 years ago

Canada is ranked 11th country in the world with highest fatalities from lung cancer (33 per 100,000). UAE is ranked 123rd (7 per 100,000) and KSA 143rd (5 per 100,000). Canada's strict policies against smokers may or may not have been as effective in preventing lung cancer as one might think. The Middle East in general, has the lowest death rate from lung cancer and that is a fact, irrespective of smoking policies. I think the policies in Canada against smoking are mainly driven by politics and people who do not like the stench of smoke and fear the impact of second hand smoking, which is fair. Canada, UAE and KSA share similar statistics when it comes to liver and stomach cancers. It looks like the WHO report is mainly aimed at countries in Africa, Central Asia and the Far East, where cancer is really growing at an alarming rate due to lack of early detection policies and public education.

Mark Renton 6 years ago

@SAM - interesting statistics. Presumably they have been moderated to take into account the structural and demographic differences between Canada and the GCC, in particular the relative youth of GGC populations, plus the presence of large expatriate populations, most of whom will have returned home before they get to an age where cancers are likely to become apparent, or otherwise will (voluntarily or otherwise) return home once they are too ill to work?