Cancer remains a significant global challenge, underscoring the importance of regularly collecting data in this field. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which operates within the World Health Organization (WHO), plays a crucial role in gathering such data worldwide. Recently, the IARC released its latest fact sheets and information concerning the global burden of cancer in 2022.
In conjunction with this release, the WHO issued a statement emphasizing some of the key findings from the data collected, shedding light on the current state of cancer worldwide.
- Despite advancements in cancer treatment, the disease remains a global health concern.
- The World Health Organization’s latest report predicts a significant increase in cancer cases, with over 35 million new cases expected by 2050 compared to approximately 20 million cases in 2022.
- Reports from the International Agency for Research on Cancer identify lung, breast, and colorectal cancers as the most common types globally.
- Understanding the factors contributing to the rise in cancer cases is crucial for developing effective mitigation and prevention strategies.
Cases of cancer are increasing, but where and what kinds?
Different types of cancer vary in their prevalence and severity globally. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) collects extensive data on these variations to gain a comprehensive understanding of cancer’s impact and to devise effective strategies to combat it.
As per IARC’s findings, the most common cancers worldwide in 2022 were lung, breast, and colorectal cancer. Lung cancer was the most prevalent among both men and women, making up 12.4% of all cancer cases.
For men, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers were the most common. Among women, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers were predominant, with breast cancer accounting for 23.8% of new cases among females in 2022.
Lung cancer currently has the highest mortality rate globally, standing at 16.8%. It caused over 2.4 million cases and more than 1.8 million deaths worldwide, with Asia having the highest incidence, mortality, and prevalence, followed by Europe.
Similarly, breast cancer affected over 2.3 million people globally and ranked fourth in mortality, causing nearly 670,000 deaths.
Increased cancer cases by 77% by 2050
Cancer mortality rates vary widely around the globe, with a particularly stark contrast between countries with very high human development indexes and those with low indexes.
In countries with a low human development index, there were approximately 811,014 new cases of cancer and 543,337 deaths reported. Conversely, in nations with very high human development indexes, there were significantly more new cases, totaling around 9,296,171, but notably fewer deaths, with only 3,643,502 recorded.
The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts a substantial increase in new cancer cases by 2050, estimating a 77% rise to reach a staggering 35 million cases globally. While high human development countries are expected to still have high incidence rates, countries with low and medium human development indexes will likely experience a significant surge in cases compared to previous levels.
This increase in cases is anticipated to result in elevated mortality rates, particularly in low and medium human development index countries. WHO projects that by 2050, mortality rates in these nations may nearly double compared to current levels.
Factors linked to an increase in cancer cases
Several factors contribute to the burden of cancer globally, according to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO). One significant aspect is the level of human development in a country, which can affect access to timely diagnoses and quality treatment. Countries with lower human development indexes may face challenges in providing adequate healthcare, leading to poorer cancer outcomes for their populations.
Governmental support for cancer-related services also plays a crucial role in addressing the burden of cancer. WHO’s reference to survey data from 115 countries highlights disparities in universal health coverage, with only 39% of these countries offering basic cancer management within their health benefit packages.
Disparities in health benefit packages extend beyond basic cancer services. High-income countries tend to offer more comprehensive coverage, including services like lung cancer treatment, radiation therapy, and stem-cell transplantation, compared to low-income nations.
Environmental factors and lifestyle choices further compound the impact of cancer. For instance, the WHO statement points to the persistent use of tobacco in Asia as a contributing factor to the rising incidence of lung cancer. Additionally, demographic shifts, such as an aging population and population growth, contribute to the overall increase in cancer cases worldwide.
Alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and obesity remain significant contributors to the increasing cancer rates worldwide. Exposure to air pollution is also believed to play a role in this trend.
Dr. Anton Bilchik, a surgical oncologist serving as the Chief of Medicine and Director of the Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Program at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, has speculated on additional factors that could be driving the rise in cancer rates.
Dr. Bilchik highlighted major healthcare disparities, particularly noting the stark increase in cancer cases among poorer countries. He attributed this rise to factors such as inadequate nutrition, high rates of smoking, lack of public awareness about cancer prevention, and limited access to screening programs. Moreover, once diagnosed, individuals in these regions face higher mortality rates due to limited access to advanced surgical techniques and effective systemic therapies.
Techniques for prevention and mitigation
Although completely eradicating cancer may not be feasible, there are opportunities for mitigation and prevention. Action can be taken at multiple levels to enhance access to screening and treatment.
Governments and medical organizations play a crucial role in this effort by raising awareness and promoting understanding of cancer risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that countries reassess the prioritization of cancer within their health benefits packages to improve access to necessary services.
At the individual level, people can also take proactive steps to reduce their personal risk factors. For instance, quitting smoking can significantly decrease the risk of developing various types of cancer.
Dr. Shana O. Ntiri, an associate professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine and executive director of the Mini Medical School at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, along with her roles as the Medical Director of the Baltimore City Cancer Program and senior medical advisor in the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, shared her insights on cancer prevention with Medical News Today.
Dr. Ntiri highlighted lung, breast, and colon cancers as the primary types prevalent in 115 countries, including the United States. She emphasized that behavioral changes focused on prevention and regular screening can significantly reduce the incidence and mortality rates associated with these cancers.
To mitigate the risk of cancer, Dr. Ntiri recommended actions such as quitting tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming nutritious meals, and engaging in physical activity. Additionally, she stressed the importance of regular screenings, such as mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, and PSA testing for prostate cancer. These preventive measures are crucial in reducing the burden of cancer and improving overall health outcomes.