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Global cancer burden set to soar

WHO calls for cancer prevention strategy

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 04 February 2014

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialised agency of WHO, has launched the World Cancer Report 2014 in which it emphasises the need for urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease.

In 2012, the global burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades, rising to 24 million by 2035.

Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main cancer risk factors worldwide, notes the report.

Chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) are leading risk factors for cancer in low- and middle-income countries. Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in low-income countries.

The WHO has described a ‘real need’ to focus on cancer prevention by modifying key risk factors including smoking, unhealthy eating and alcohol use.

Tobacco use remains the single most important risk factor for cancer causing about 22% of global cancer deaths and 71% of global lung cancer deaths.

More than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented, notes the report, by tackling public health issues such as obesity, urban air pollution, smoking, alcohol use, lack of physical activity and sexually transmitted HPV-infection.

Prevention strategies should include avoidance of the above risk factors, as well as vaccination against HPV and hepatitis B virus, control of occupational hazards and reduced exposure to sunlight. The report also covers the need for early detection through screening and early diagnosis and to reduce cancer mortality.

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