WHO World Cancer Report says cases will rise 70pc in next two decades

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:36am

Cancer cases worldwide are predicted to increase by 70 per cent over the next two decades, from 14 million in 2012 to 25 million new cases a year, according to the World Health Organisation.

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, said in London.

"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", produced roughly once every five years, involved 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 spiralling 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 US$1.16 trillion. Yet around half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge about cancer prevention was properly implemented, Wild said.

The report said that cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million in 2012 to 13 million per year within the next two decades.

"Behind each one of these numbers, there's an individual and a family faced with a tragic situation," Wild said.

The data means 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 disease.

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.

As populations across the world are both growing and ageing, IARC said developing countries were disproportionately affected by the increasing numbers of cancers. More than 60 per cent of the world's total cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. "Governments must show political commitment to progressively step up the implementation of high-quality screening and early detection programmes, which are an investment rather than a cost," said Bernard Stewart, a co-editor.

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 behaviour," said Stewart.

Reuters, The Guardian