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article imageWHO: Can’t treat our way out of cancer problem

By Joe Duarte     Feb 3, 2014 in Health
Lyons - The World Health Organization (WHO) says cancer is growing at an alarming pace and cannot be cured by today’s treatments, adding that it expects 22 million cancer cases worldwide by 2030.
The world’s population is projected to be around 8.4 billion by then, which would mean about a quarter of a percent of the world’s people would be afflicted with the deadly disease.
In its World Cancer Report 2014 released ahead of World Cancer Day (every February 4), WHO’s specialized cancer agency IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) says the only way to effectively curb the spread of the disease is through preventive measures. And time is of the essence.
“Despite exciting advances … we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” says Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and co-editor of the report. “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.”
The report states that in 2012, new cancer cases grew to 14 million and are expected to rise to 22 million annually over the next two decades. Annual deaths from cancer are predicted to rise to an estimated 13 million (from today’s 8.2 million).
As of 2012, lung cancer was the most common—accounting for 13 percent of the total number of cancer cases, or roughly 1.8 million, with 1.6 million of those dying from the disease (roughly 19 percent of the total number of all cancer-related deaths). Breast cancer accounted for 1.7 million cases (roughly 12 percent) and colon cancer accounted for 1.4 million cases (just under 10 percent).
At 0.8 million deaths (9.1 percent of the total), people suffering from liver cancer had the second highest mortality rate, followed by those suffering from stomach cancer (about 700,000 or 8.8 percent).
The report also highlighted that 60 percent of cancer cases are in developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, with 70 percent of worldwide cancer deaths occurring in those regions, probably due to the poor health services, which naturally impacts early detection and subsequent treatment. The agency says that early screening for cancers, especially in children, would decrease the mortality rate significantly.
Also, many developing countries are not only burdened by the high rates of infection-related cancers (such as those of the cervix, stomach and liver) but also by increasing numbers of cancers of the lung, breast and bowel, which are associated with increased industrialization.
Among the proactive approaches recommended by IARC is childhood virus vaccination for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (causes of liver and cervical cancers, respectively).
“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,” emphasizes Dr Bernard W. Stewart, co-editor of the World Cancer Report 2014. “Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behavior, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants. It is critical that governments commit to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans.”
Other suggested measures are education in low and middle-income nations to stem tobacco use (the major cause of lung cancer) and increased promotion of physical activity to fight obesity (a major contributor to colon and breast cancers).
“The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being,” stresses Dr. Wild. “These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide.”
The World Cancer Report is usually released every five years and in 2014 was compiled using data from some 250 scientists from over 40 countries.
More about Cancer, World health organization, cancer screenings
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