Cancer deaths to rise to 9.6 million as populations grow and age

File photo showing a doctor examining cancerous tumours at a medical facility in the US, on Feb 8, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Cancer will claim the lives of 9.6 million people in 2018, accounting for one in eight of all deaths among men and one in 11 among women, the World Health Organisation's cancer research agency said on Wednesday (Sept 12).

In its GLOBOCAN report detailing prevalence and death rates from many different types of cancer, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the global cancer burden would rise to an estimated 18.1 million new cases this year.

This was up from 14.1 million - and 8.2 million deaths - in 2012, when the last GLOBACAN survey was published.

IARC said the rising cancer burden - characterised as the number of new cases, the prevalence, and the number of deaths - was due to several factors, including social and economic development and growing and ageing populations.

In emerging economies, it said, there is also a shift from cancers related to poverty and infections towards cancers linked to lifestyles and diets more typical of wealthier countries.


Lung cancer - mainly caused by smoking - is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, the report said. And along with breast cancer, lung cancer also causes among the highest number of new cases of the disease: 2.1 million new cases of each are expected to be diagnosed this year alone.

With an estimated 1.8 million new cases in 2018, colorectal or bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, followed by prostate cancer and then stomach cancer.

"These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play," IARC's director Christopher Wild said in a statement with the report.

He called for efficient prevention and early detection policies to be implemented urgently "to control this devastating disease across the world".

IARC's report said prevention efforts - such as stop-smoking campaigns, screenings, and human papillomavirus vaccinations - may have helped reduce incidence rates for some cancers, such as lung cancer among men in Northern Europe and North America and cervical cancer in most regions other than sub-Saharan Africa.

But it added that most countries still face an overall rise in the number of cancer cases diagnosed and needing treatment.

Worldwide, the total number of people who are alive within five years of a cancer diagnosis, called the 5-year prevalence, is estimated to be 43.8 million.

Global patterns showed that for men and women combined, nearly half of new cancer cases and more than half of cancer deaths worldwide in 2018 will be in Asia, in part because the region has nearly 60 per cent of the global population.

Europe accounts for 23.4 per cent of global cancer cases and 20.3 per cent of cancer deaths, although it has only 9 per cent of the global population.

The Americas have 13.3 per cent of the global population and account for 21 per cent of cancer cases and 14.4 per cent of cancer deaths.

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