The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimate that one-in-five men and one-in-six women worldwide will develop cancer over the course of their lifetime, and that one-in-eight man and one-in-eleven women will die from their disease. A number of factors appear to be driving this increase, particularly a growing and ageing global population and an increase in exposure to cancer risk factors linked to social and economic development. For rapidly-growing economies, the data suggests a shift from poverty- or infection-related cancers to those associated with lifestyles more typical in industrialised countries.
There are some indications that scaled-up prevention efforts are starting to reduce cancer incidence rates, for example lower lung cancer incidence in men in Northern Europe and North America, or in cervical cancer across most regions except Sub-Saharan Africa compared to 2012 data.
However, countries are facing an overall increase in the absolute number of cancer cases. Asia accounts for nearly half of the new cancer cases and more than half of cancer deaths. Estimates suggest that Asia and Africa have a higher proportion of cancer deaths (7.3% and 57.3% respectively) compared with their incidence (5.8% and 48.4% respectively). IARC suggests this trend is likely due to the higher frequency of cancer types associated with poorer prognosis, along with limited access to timely diagnosis and treatment. The 2018 data also suggests that countries with high Human Development Index (HDI) have 2-3 times higher cancer incidence than those with low or medium HDI. The leading cancers globally have also changed compared to 2012 data.
It is clear that cancer is an urgent global challenge and Governments must take meaures to scale up prevention, early detection and diagnosis, treatment, and care services. The global cancer community has an important role to play in holding Governments accountable to their commitments and advocating for accelerated and evidence-based action nationally.
One of the key concerns raised by IARC is that lung cancer is the leading cause of death globally and its prevalence is rising amongst women, surpassing breast cancers in 28 countries.
“Best practice measures embedded in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control have effectively reduced active smoking and prevented involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke in many countries,” said Dr Freddie Bray, Head of the Section of Cancer Surveillance at IARC. “However, given that the tobacco epidemic is at different stages in different regions and in men and women, the results highlight the need for continue to put in place targeted and effective tobacco control policies in every country in the world.”
UICC is committed to working closely with our members to advocate for comprehensive cancer control, driven by the 2017 cancer resolution to deliver sustainable action. Dr Cary Adam’s, CEO of UICC, suggested that:
“GLOBOCAN 2018 shows that we don’t have time to waste in driving governments to step up cancer control efforts. We know what works, we know it is cost effective, we know it is feasible in every country. My ask to the global cancer community is to join our call to our Heads of Government to lead and take responsibility for this. We have Governments attending the HLM on NCDs; let’s use the opportunity we have to start changing things now.”
UICC launched the ‘Treatment for All’ campaign to help reduce premature mortality from cancer and promote equitable access to treatment and care. Find out more at the webpage above and learn how it can support your work nationally.
GLOBOCAN 2018 is an online database providing estimates of incidence and mortality in 185 countries for 36 types of cancer, and for all cancer sites combined. The data is part of IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory, and is available online at Cancer Today with user-friendly facilities to produce maps and explore visualisations.
An analysis of these results, published on 12th September in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, highlights the large geographical diversity in cancer occurrence and the variations in the magnitude and profile of the disease between and within world regions.
These estimates are based on the most recent data available at IARC and on information publicly available online. GLOBOCAN 2018 has been developed using a number of methods that are dependent on the availability and the accuracy of the data. National sources are used where possible, and in their absence local data and statistical modelling are used. IARC coordinates the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development, an international partnership that supports better estimation, as well as the collection and use of local data, to prioritise and evaluate national cancer control efforts.