In a report published to coincide with World Cancer Day, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) cancer agency has warned there will be 22 million new cases of cancer every year within the next two decades.
The document by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which took five years to put together, says new cases of cancer will rise by half by 2030, reaching 21.6 million per year compared to 14 million in 2012.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan, whose agency oversees the IARC, said the overall impact from cancer would “unquestionably” hit developing countries the hardest.
“These nations are already grappling with poverty-associated cancers caused by infection or disease,” she told the AFP news agency.
More than 60 percent of the world’s cancer cases and 70 percent of deaths occurred in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, said the report.
Measured as a proportion of the population, however, high-income countries in North America and western Europe as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, had higher figures.
Cancers of the breast, colorectum and prostate were more typical of the industrialised world, said the report, and those of the liver, stomach and oesophagus more common in low-income countries.
Almost half the new cases diagnosed in 2012 were in Asia, most of them in China, said the report.
Europe had nearly a quarter of cases, the Americas about a fifth, and Africa and the Middle East just over eight percent.
But when it came to deaths, Asia’s share jumped to more than 50 percent and that of Africa and the Middle East to nearly 10 percent, while the Americas’ share shrank to under 16 percent and that of Europe to 21.4 percent.
Cancer is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage in less developed countries, and treatment is less readily available, said the report.
Globally, lung cancer was the biggest killer with 19.4 percent of the total, followed by cancer of the liver with 9.1 percent and stomach with 8.8 percent.
The report said lung cancer was “inextricably linked to the global tactics of tobacco companies aiming to expand their sales“.
A smoking “epidemic” was evolving in poor countries, it said, “potentially impeding human development by consuming scarce resources, increasing pressures on already weak health-care systems, and inhibiting national productivity”.
The report said the total, annual economic cost of cancer to the world was estimated at about $1.16 trillion in 2010, “yet about half of all cancers could be avoided” through prevention, early detection and treatment.