Cancer to kill nearly 10 million this year says WHO report

According to a report released by the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency this week, 9.6 million people would lose their lives to cancer this year. This translates as one in eight of all deaths and one in eleven of all deaths among men and women respectively says the agency.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer came up with a detailed report called the GLOBOCAN report (PDF), on prevalence of cancer and the deaths caused due to this condition worldwide. According to the report worldwide, around 18.1 million new cases of cancer are to be detected this year and there would be an estimated 9.6 million deaths due to cancer. These numbers have risen from 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths due to cancer in 2012. In 2012 the last world global survey on cancer was released.

According to the WHO report there are several factors that have contributed to this exponential rise in cancer cases worldwide. This includes changes in the social and economic situations as well as the rise in the aging population. Cancer earlier was linked to poverty and infections explain the experts in the flied. Poor nutrition, viral infections etc. were connected to getting cancer. With time, economic advances have altered the cancer causation. Now lifestyle choices and diet are being increasingly associated with rising number of cancer cases, they explain.

According to the report, one of the leading cancers worldwide is lung cancer that is directly associated with smoking. There have been 2.1 million new cases of lung cancer being diagnosed this year. Breast cancers too saw a very high detection rate this year. Third most common cancer globally is colorectal or bowel cancer with 1.8 million new diagnoses this year. This was followed by prostate cancer and stomach cancer, the report says.

Among men, lung cancer is the commonest (14.5 percent of the cases) compared to women (8.4 percent). Among men, leading cancer killers are lung, prostate, colorectal, liver and stomach cancers. Among women the leading cancer killer remains breast cancer followed by lung, colorectal and cervical cancer. In 28 countries lung cancer remains the leading killer. These include North America, Northern and Western Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand. Hungary sees maximum number of women dying of lung cancers and smoking remains the commonest associated cause.

Asia has nearly 60 percent of the world population and thus nearly half of the new cancer diagnosis and over half of the cancer deaths globally would occur in Asia in 2018. Europe would see 23.4 percent of all cancer cases and 20.3 percent of cancer deaths this year. This said, it must be remembered that only 9 percent of the global population lives in Europe. America would see 21 percent of the new cancer cases and 14.4 percent of cancer deaths this year and only 13.3 percent of the global population lives there says the report.

The agency's director, Christopher Wild, said in a statement, “These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally, and that prevention has a key role to play.” He explained that policies need to be amended to ramp up prevention efforts in order “to control this devastating disease across the world.” Prevention efforts that need urgent boost according to the agency are routine screenings for cancers, vaccinations against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) (to prevent cervical cancer) and most importantly prevention of smoking and exposure to passive smoking. Men in Northern Europe and North America for example have benefited hugely with some of these measures, they add. The number of cases of certain cancers has reduced after efforts were made towards prevention. Cervical cancer among women living in most regions apart from sub-Saharan Africa has reduced significantly due to routine HPV vaccinations.

The report adds that much still needs to be done to bring down the numbers. There are millions of people who need effective diagnosis and prompt treatment. The report adds that globally 43.8 million people are living within five years of a cancer diagnosis in 2018. Five year survival is a marker for cancer outcome.

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