Worldwide cancer cases to rise 70 per cent over the next 20 years

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of people diagnosed with cancer across the globe will rise from 14 million to 24 million a year, an increase of 70 per cent, during the next two decades, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted.

“People can cut their risk of cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices, but it’s important to remember that the government and society are also responsible for creating an environment that supports healthy lifestyles." - Jean King, Cancer Research UK

The World Cancer Report 2014 – compiled by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – warned that countries are not equipped to “treat their way out of the cancer problem.”

Experts say a combined focus of preventing as well as treating new cases will be needed to tackle cancer.

Cancer deaths are predicted to rise from 8.2 million a year in 2012 to 13 million per year over the next 20 years, according to the report.

The report says even the richest countries will struggle to cope with the spiralling costs of treatment and care for patients. It also says that the lower income countries, where numbers of cancer cases will be highest, are also ill-equipped for the impending increase.

The report states that developing countries are disproportionately affected by the increasing numbers of cancers as a consequence of growing and ageing populations.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “The most shocking thing about this report's prediction...is that up to half of all cases could be prevented.

“70 per cent of the people dying from cancer in the world live in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Low awareness of cancer symptoms and a lack of access to basic screening services and treatment are partly responsible.

“And we also need to improve access globally to vaccines that can prevent cancer, such as HPV vaccination to prevent cervical cancer, and low-tech, effective methods of cervical screening, such as visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), an approach which requires little more than vinegar and a trained eye to perform”, she added.

Governments must take heed of the predictions made in this report, said the report's co-editor, Dr Bernard W Stewart, and "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.”

Dr Christopher Wild, IARC director, added: "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."

It found that lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed among men (16.7 per cent of cases) and was responsible for the greatest number of deaths (23.6 per cent).

Breast cancer is the most common diagnosis in women (25.2 per cent) and caused 14.7 per cent of deaths – which is a drop and now only just exceeds that for lung cancer deaths in women (13.8 per cent).

Stressing the preventable nature of certain types of cancer, the report highlights that obesity, a lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking should be the focus of policymakers looking to encourage healthier behaviour.

Cancer Research UK’s Jean King, added: “People can cut their risk of cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices, but it’s important to remember that the government and society are also responsible for creating an environment that supports healthy lifestyles.

“It’s clear that if we don’t act now to curb the number of people getting cancer, we will be at the heart of a global crisis in cancer care within the next two decades.”

Copyright Press Association 2014