Cancer is a disease which occurs when changes in a group of normal cells within the body lead to uncontrolled, abnormal growth forming a lump called a tumour.
This is true of all cancers except leukaemia (cancer of the blood). If left untreated, tumours can grow and spread into the surrounding normal tissue, or to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic systems, and can affect the digestive, nervous and circulatory systems or release hormones that may affect body function.
Global cancer cases are expected to rise around 77 per cent by the middle of the century, UN health authorities said, highlighting the growing burden of the disease.
There are predicted to be more than 35 million cancer cases during 2050, up from the estimated 20 million in 2022, according to latest figures from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), said the World Health Organization (WHO).
The increase reflects both population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors.
Richer countries are expected to have the greatest absolute increase in cancer, with an additional 4.8 million new cases predicted in 2050.
However, low and middle-income countries should see a higher proportional increase in cancer, while mortality is projected to almost double.
World Cancer Day is an international day marked on 4 February every year aiming to prevent millions of deaths each year by raising awareness about cancer.
Together, we challenge those in power” to go the extra mile for a cancer-free Africa! Is the theme for World Cancer Day 2024.
Such a whole-of-society approach to cancer prevention and care is the essence of this year’s World Cancer Day theme. “Together, we challenge those in power” to go the extra mile for a cancer-free Africa!
The World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris in the year 2000 has endorsed4 February as the World Cancer Day marked to give pressure on governments and encourage individuals across the world to take action against the disease in prevention, detection, and treatment supporting the goals of the World Cancer Declaration of 2008.
As the UN health agency says, cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide that claims 10 million people every year.
Cancer disease is linked to risk factors of consumption of tobacco, drinking over alcohol, poor diet and physical inactivity and obesity, along with air pollution.
Almost at least one third of all deaths related to cancer could be prevented through routine screening, and early detection and treatment. However, it is said that over 40% of cancer-related deaths could be preventable. Also it has statistics that over 70% of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries.
The estimates from the IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory are based on the best sources of data available from 185 countries and covers 36 different forms of cancer.
They were published alongside a WHO survey from 115 countries which showed that the majority do not adequately finance priority cancer and palliative care services as part of universal health coverage.
Ten types of cancer collectively comprised around two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally in 2022, the IARC said.
Lung cancer was the most commonly occurring form worldwide with 2.5 million new cases. It accounted for more than 12 per cent of all new cases and 18.9 per cent of deaths, 1.8 million, making it the leading cause of cancer death.
Female breast cancer ranked second in terms of occurrence, with 2.3 million cases, worldwide or 11.6 per cent, but accounted for 6.9 per cent of deaths.
Other commonly occurring cancers were colorectal, prostate and stomach cancer.
Colorectal cancer was the second leading cause of cancer death, followed by liver, breast and stomach cancer.
Cervical cancer was the eighth most commonly occurring cancer globally, the ninth leading cause of cancer death, and the most common cancer in women in 25 countries, many of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The IARC estimates – issued ahead of World Cancer Day on 4 February – also revealed striking inequalities, particularly in breast cancer.
One in 12 women in richer countries will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime and one in 71 will die of it, the agency said. However, although only one in 27 women in poorer countries will receive a positive breast cancer diagnosis, one in 48 will die.
These women “are at a much higher risk of dying of the disease due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment,” said Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram, Deputy Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC.
The WHO survey also revealed significant global inequities in cancer services. For example, higher income countries were up to seven times more likely to include lung cancer-related services in their health benefits packages.
“WHO, including through its cancer initiatives, is working intensively with more than 75 governments to develop, finance and implement policies to promote cancer care for all,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of its Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, underlining the need for greater investment.