Updated 09 September 2014

Proportionally more cancer in developing countries

Developing countries are expected to bear the brunt of a significant rise in cancer cases due to their adoption of western lifestyles.

Developing countries are expected to bear the brunt of a significant rise in cancer cases due to their adoption of western lifestyles, a report released Monday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows.

The number of new cancer diagnoses, which stood at 14 million in 2012, is set to rise to 25 million annually over the next two decades, according to the WHO's latest World Cancer report. Low- and middle-income countries – including those in Africa, Asia and Latin America – will be hit hardest by the increase.

Causes of cancer

"[The] increasing use of tobacco, consumption of alcohol and highly processed foods and lack of physical activity" mean that the proportion of cancer deaths will be higher in developing countries, WHO director general Margaret Chan said in the report, adding that a lack of early detection and access to treatment were also to blame.

Currently, more than 60% of the world's total cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

These regions account for about 70% of the world's cancer deaths. The report has found that not only developing countries, but also high-income regions including the United States and Western Europe are poorly equipped to deal with the rising cancer burden.

Alarming rise in cancer

"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," said Christopher Wild, one of the report's authors and head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The report also offers several policies to tackle the rise in new cancer cases, including higher taxes on unhealthy food products.

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