One third of all cancers are preventable but urgent action is still needed from governments, individuals and the medical community to stop the rise in cancer deaths, according to leading experts attending the World Cancer Congress 2010.
“A large percentage of cancers,approximately 40%, are caused by lifestyle factors, infectious diseases and environmental or occupation-related hazards, meaning they arepotentially preventable”, said Professor David Hill, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) President 2008-2010. “Adopting global, national and personal strategies to address these factors has been proven to reduce the number of cancer cases and deaths, but there is still more than can be done.”
Reduction of the global cancer epidemic is one of the world’s most urgent health priorities. For this reason the World Cancer Congress 2010 aims to encourage discussion and debate within the global cancer community on the importance of prevention, screening, early detection, and effective treatment and management. This is the first time such an important international cancer meeting has been held in China and reflects the importance of galvanising commitment throughout Asia to meeting the World Cancer Declaration targets.
Of the numerous lifestyle factors that cause cancer, tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world today. It causes 80-90 per cent of all lung cancer deaths, and about 30 per cent of all cancer deaths in developing countries. Comprehensive strategies including bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, tax increases on tobacco products, and cessation programmes can reduce tobacco consumption. These initiatives have been shown to effectively decrease the number of cancer deaths, but not all countries have implemented these important interventions. Only nine per cent of countries mandate smoke-free bars and restaurants, and 65 countries report no implementation of any smoke-free policies at a national level.
Infectious agents are responsible for almost 22 per cent of cancer deaths in the developing world and six per cent in industrialised countries. Initiatives driving vaccination and other prevention methods have already saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but global coverage can still be improved.
The incidence and burden of cancer is huge. Cancer kills more people on a global scale than AIDS, malaria and TB combined. Nearly 12.7 million cases and 7.6 million deaths due to the disease were reported in 2008. Without significant action to address these premature deaths – preventable and curable cancers will continue to kill millions of people worldwide.
The global cancer epidemic is set to continue rising, placing further strains on both individuals and their families, and the societies in which they live. The number of cancer cases and related deaths worldwide is estimated to double over the next 20-40 years. With the greatest increase in low and middle income countries; those least equipped to cope with both the social and economic impact of the disease. By 2030 it is believed that there will be 26 million new cancer cases and 17 million cancer deaths per year.