Cancer deaths rise to 8.2 million, breast cancer sharply up

LONDON (REUTERS) - The global death toll from cancer rose to 8.2 million in 2012 with sharp rises in breast cancer as the disease tightened its grip in developing nations struggling to treat an illness driven by Western lifestyles.

Cancer deaths were up 8 per cent from 7.6 million in a previous survey in 2008 and breast cancer killed 522,000 women last year, up 14 per cent in the same period, according to the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

"Breast cancer is also a leading cause of cancer death in the less developed countries of the world," said David Forman, head of IARC's Section of Cancer Information, the group that compiles the global cancer data.

He said this was "partly because a shift in lifestyles is causing an increase in incidence, and partly because clinical advances to combat the disease are not reaching women living in these regions." An estimated 14.1 million people developed cancer in 2012, up from 12.7 million in 2008. And 1.7 million women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer last year, up by more than 20 percent from 2008.

IARC's report, called GLOBOCAN 2012, gives the most up-to-date estimates for 28 different types of cancer in 184 countries and offers an overview of the global cancer burden.

It found that the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide in men and women combined were lung, breast and colorectal cancers. The most common causes of cancer death were lung, liver and stomach cancers.

Projecting forward, IARC experts said they expected "a substantive increase" in cancer cases worldwide, with annual new cases predicted to rise to 19.3 million by 2025 as the global population both grows and ages.

Worldwide trends show that in developing countries going through rapid societal and economic change, the shift towards lifestyles more typical of richer industrialised countries leads to a rising burden of cancers linked to reproduction, diet and hormones.

The IARC report said cancer incidence - the number of new cases each year - has been increasing in most regions of the world, but noted what it said were "huge inequalities" between rich and poor countries.

While rates of new cancer cases are still highest in more developed regions, death rates are relatively much higher in less developed countries because people's tumours are often not detected and diagnosed early enough due to a lack of screening and access to treatment.