4 Feb 2014

World facing global ‘cancer crisis’, WHO warns

Worldwide cancer cases are growing at an alarming rate, the World Health Organisation warns, and “urgent” action is need to prevent a crisis.

Cancer patient in India (picture: Reuters)

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the WHO, has launched a report warning that the “worldwide burden of cancer” will hit 22 million cases a year in two decades, up from 14 million in 2012.

The World Cancer Report 2014 also says that the crisis is hitting the developing countries the worst, with 60 per cent of cases occurring in Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

It says that treating cancer alone will not solve the crisis, and that governments across the world need to implement early prevention strategies in order to curb the disease.

“Despite exciting advances, this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC said.

“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.”

Lack of early detection

The report said that new cancer cases rose to 14 million a year in 2012, with the most common cancers being diagnosed being lung cancer (13 per cent), breast cancer (11.9 per cent, and large bowel cancer (9.7 per cent).

An estimated 8.2 million annual cancer deaths is expected to increase to 13 million in two decades, the report said.

Growing and ageing populations mean that around 8.4 million new cancer cases occur in developing countries. A lack of early detection in these countries has led to 70 per cent of cancer deaths occurring in these places, the report says.

It adds that developing countries need access to effective and affordable cancer treatments in order to avoid deaths, particularly in children. It says that around half of cancer death could be avoided “if current knowledge was adequately implemented.”

Dr Wild said: “The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being. These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception.”