Global Cancer Burden: WHO Report Highlights Urgent Need for Action

WHO cancer department, the International Department for Research on Cancer, has revealed startling data regarding the worldwide cancer burden as World Cancer Day draws near.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer department, the International Department for Research on Cancer (IARC), has revealed startling data regarding the worldwide cancer burden as World Cancer Day draws near. Based on data from 2022, the most recent predictions show a worsening catastrophe that disproportionately affects underprivileged communities and highlights the critical need to address cancer disparities worldwide.

In 2022, a staggering 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths were reported worldwide. The estimated number of people alive within 5 years of a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million. Approximately 1 in 5 people develop cancer in their lifetime, with 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women succumbing to the disease.

Three Major Cancer Types Dominate

Lung, breast, and colorectal cancers emerged as the predominant types in 2022, collectively constituting around two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally.

Lung cancer topped the list with 2.5 million new cases (12.4%), followed by female breast cancer (2.3 million cases, 11.6%) and colorectal cancer (1.9 million cases, 9.6%). In terms of mortality, lung cancer claimed the most lives (1.8 million deaths, 18.7%), followed by colorectal cancer (900,000 deaths, 9.3%).

The resurgence of lung cancer as the most common cancer is attributed to persistent tobacco use in Asia. This highlights the ongoing challenges in combating preventable risk factors that contribute to the global cancer burden.

Inequities in Cancer Services

WHO’s survey on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and cancer services in 115 countries revealed significant gaps in financing for priority cancer and palliative care services. Only 39% of participating countries included the basics of cancer management in their financed core health services, and a mere 28% covered palliative care.

The survey also exposed stark disparities in cancer services based on the Human Development Index (HDI). Breast cancer, for instance, exhibited significant inequities – women in low HDI countries were 50% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than their counterparts in high HDI countries. However, they faced a much higher risk of mortality due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment.

Cervical Cancer: A Preventable Tragedy

Cervical cancer, ranking eighth globally in new cases and ninth in deaths, remains a major concern, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. With 661,044 new cases and 348,186 deaths reported, it is the most common cancer in women in 25 countries. The WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative aims to address this public health crisis through widespread implementation.

Projected Increase in Cancer Burden

Looking ahead to 2050, projections indicate a 77% increase in new cancer cases globally, reaching over 35 million. This surge is attributed to factors such as population aging, growth, and changes in risk factor exposure. Tobacco, alcohol, and obesity, along with persistent air pollution, are identified as key contributors to this alarming trend.

While high HDI countries are expected to experience the greatest absolute increase in incidence, low and medium HDI countries face a disproportionate rise in both incidence (142% and 99%, respectively) and mortality. The burden of this increase will be most acutely felt by those with the fewest resources to manage cancer.

Call for Urgent Action

Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO, emphasized the urgent need for major investments to address global inequities in cancer outcomes. The survey revealed significant disparities in cancer services, with lower-income countries struggling to provide even the basics of cancer care.

Dr. Cary Adams, head of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), emphasized that the issue goes beyond resources and is a matter of political will.

Disparities in cancer outcomes persist not only between high and low-income regions but also within countries. The call to prioritize cancer care and ensure universal access to affordable, quality services is louder than ever.

In conclusion, the WHO’s report sheds light on the pressing need for a comprehensive, global strategy to tackle the growing cancer crisis. As World Cancer Day approaches, it serves as a stark reminder that concerted efforts are required to bridge the gaps in cancer services, address preventable risk factors, and ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against cancer. The time for action is now.