13 April 2007

Cancer flood on the way

The number of diagnosed cancer cases will more than double between 2000 and 2030, primarily in poor countries, an international expert said Tuesday.

The number of diagnosed cancer cases will more than double between 2000 and 2030, primarily in poor countries, the director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer said Tuesday.

Dr Peter Boyle said the reasons for the increase include population growth, increased life expectancies and the transfer from the developed world to the developing world of cancer risk factors such as smoking added to the existing risks in poor countries such as communicable diseases and lack of health care.

In 2000, the agency estimated 11 million new cases of diagnosed cancer worldwide, seven million deaths from cancer and 25 million people living with cancer.

More than double the numbers
"We currently estimate that between the year 2000 and 2030, there'll be a more than doubling of the numbers of cases of cancer diagnosed each year," Boyle said. "And the great majority of this increase is going to be in the low- and medium-resource countries."

The agency expects that by the year 2030, there will be 27 million cases of cancer, 17 million deaths from cancer and 75 million people living with cancer.

"We've been concentrating on cancer in high-resource countries and until essentially Aids came along, we haven't looked too closely at what's going on in low-resource countries," Boyle told a news conference.

Shift toward poor countries
But he said new research shows that as time has progressed, there has been an increasing shift of cancer to poor countries.

"What's going to happen between now and 2030 is that the population is going to increase from about 6.5 billion to 8 billion in 2030," Boyle said. "So even if the risks remain constant at each five-year age group, because we've got more people around, we're going to have more cases of cancer."

A second factor leading to a rise in cancer cases is the increase in life expectancy in the majority of countries, with the exception of some Aids-ravaged countries in Africa, he said.

Both China and India have continual growth in the number of people reaching older ages, Boyle said. "So if you've got more old people in the population with the same risks as the younger people, you're going to have more cases of cancer in the older population," he said.

Exporting risk factors
Boyle said one of the unfortunate successes for developed countries in the last 40 years has been their export of cancer risk factors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, to poor countries.

"These three elements are going to come together and that is going to drive up the global cancer button over the next 30 years," Boyle said.

Twenty-five years ago, the mortality rate for cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus was exactly the same in Britain and the United States as it was in Central European countries, said Boyle.

"Today the mortality rate is 10 times higher in Central Europe than it is in the United States, Britain and Western European countries," Boyle said.

He attributed the explosion of alcohol consumption in Central Europe to economic changes in the late 1980s.

A political decision
He said spending on health is a political decision but government bodies must be made aware of the situation for improvements to be made.

But Boyle said "there is a lot of basic work that needs to be done at the global level, and not by individual countries."

One way to reduce cancer is to ban tobacco use, he said.

The agency just finished an estimate of cancer cases and deaths in all UN World Health Organization regions which found that breast cancer is the commonest or second commonest form of cancer in every region of the world.

The study also found that the commonest type of cancer for men in Africa is Kaposi's sarcoma, which is directly linked to the HIV/Aids epidemic there.

"The situation becomes more complicated because we see that radiotherapy is the mainstay of cancer therapy," Boyle said.

Over half the people with cancer in the West get one course of radiotherapy, and a quarter get two courses, according to the agency's director.

Many countries without radio therapy
But there are 30 countries in the world that do not have a single radiotherapy machine, Boyle said, and Africa has only enough radiotherapy machines to cope with one-fifth of the continent's cancer needs.

Cancer treatment drugs, such as new HPV vaccines, which cost around $350 in the United States and double in Europe, also need to be provided at affordable levels to poor countries, Boyle said.

The agency also found that there are commonly more people in the world who die of cancer than those who die of tuberculosis, Aids and malaria combined.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is based in Lyon, France, was established in 1965 by a resolution of the World Health Assembly to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures can be found. Over 300 reports are given per year regarding cancer studies. – (Sapa-AP)

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Cancer Centre

April 2007


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