Governments must make
better use of vaccines and preventative public health policies in the fight
against cancer as treatment alone cannot stem the disease, a World Health
Organisation (WHO) agency said on Monday.
The WHO's International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said cancer was growing "at an
alarming pace" worldwide and new strategies were needed to curb the
sometimes fatal and often costly disease.
"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.
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Prevention and detection
"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.
Sharp cancer rise expected
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 8.2 million a year to 13 million
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The data mean that at
current rates, one in five men and one in six women worldwide will develop
cancer before they reach 75, 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% of the
world's total cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, and
these regions account for about 70% 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
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.
can encourage healthier behaviour," said Stewart.
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