09 December 2008

Cancer to be top killer

Cancer will overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010, international health experts say.

Cancer will overtake heart disease as the world's top killer by 2010, part of a trend that should more than double global cancer cases and deaths by 2030, international health experts reported Tuesday.

Rising tobacco use in developing countries is believed to be a huge reason for the shift, particularly in China and India, where 40 percent of the world's smokers now live.

Other reasons include better diagnosing of cancer, along with the downward trend in infectious diseases that used to be the world's leading killers.

Steady rise
Cancer diagnoses around the world have steadily been rising and are expected to hit 12 million this year. Global cancer deaths are expected to reach 7 million, according to the new report by the World Health Organization.

An annual rise of 1 percent in cases and deaths is expected - with even larger increases in China, Russia and India. That means new cancer cases will likely mushroom to 27 million annually by 2030, with deaths hitting 17 million.

Underlying all this is an expected expansion of the world's population - there will be more people around to get cancer.

The report is being released Tuesday by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer at a news conference with officials from the American Cancer Society, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Cancer Institute of Mexico.

Unprecedented gathering
The "unprecedented" gathering of organisations is an attempt to draw attention to the global threat of cancer, which isn't recognised as a major, growing health problem in some developing countries, said John Seffrin, the cancer society's chief executive officer.

The organisations are issuing a call to action, asking the US government to help fund cervical cancer vaccinations and to ratify an international tobacco control treaty. South Africa has already ratified the treaty.

"If we take action, we can keep the numbers from going where they would otherwise go," Seffrin said.

Other groups are also voicing support for more action.

Hidden crisis
"Cancer is one of the greatest untold health crises of the developing world," said Dr Douglas Blayney, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

"Few are aware that cancer already kills more people in poor countries than HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined. And if current smoking trends continue, the problem will get significantly worse," he said in a statement. (Sapa-AP, December 2008)

Read more:
Cancer Centre


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules