The WHO's International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) said cancer was growing "at an alarming pace"
worldwide and new strategies were needed to curb the sometimes fatal
and often costly disease.
"It's untenable to think we can treat our way out of the cancer
problem. That alone will not be a sufficient response," Christopher
Wild, IARC's director and co-editor of its World Cancer Report 2014,
told reporters at a London briefing.
"More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately
needed... to complement improved treatments and address the alarming
rise in the cancer burden globally."
The World Cancer Report, which is only produced roughly once every
five years, involved a collaboration of around 250 scientists from
more than 40 countries.
It said access to effective and relatively inexpensive cancer drugs
would significantly cut death rates, even in places where
health-care services are less well developed.
The spiraling costs of cancer are hurting the economies of even the
richest countries and are often way beyond the reach of poorer
nations. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was
estimated at around $1.16 trillion.
Yet around half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge
about cancer prevention was properly implemented, Wild told
SHARP RISE IN CASES EXPECTED
The report said that in 2012 — the latest year for which data are
available — new cancer cases rose to an estimated 14 million a year,
a figure expected to grow to 22 million within the next two decades.
Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an
estimated 8.2 million a year to 13 million per year.
The data mean that at current rates, one in five men and one in six
women worldwide will develop cancer before they reach 75 years old,
while one in eight men and one in 12 women will die from the
In 2012, the most common cancers diagnosed
were lung, breast and colon or bowel cancers, while the most common
causes of cancer death were lung, liver and stomach cancers.
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As populations across the world are both growing and aging, IARC
said developing countries were disproportionately affected by the
increasing numbers of cancers.
"Behind each one of these numbers, there's an individual and a
family faced with a tragic situation," Wild said.
More than 60 percent of the world's total cases occur in Africa,
Asia, and Central and South America, and these regions account for
about 70 percent of the world's cancer deaths, it said. The
situation is made worse in poorer countries by the lack of early
detection and access to treatment.
"Governments must show political commitment to progressively step up
the implementation of high-quality screening and early detection
programs, which are an investment rather than a cost," said Bernard
Stewart, another co-editor of the report.
The experts highlighted efforts to curb rates of smoking, the use of
vaccines to prevent infections that cause cervical and liver cancers
and policies aimed at bringing down rates of obesity as key areas in
which more should be done.
"Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behavior," said
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by
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