Cancer to Become Leading Cause of Death Worldwide by 2010

Nick Mulcahy

December 10, 2008

December 10, 2008 — Cancer is projected to become the leading cause of death worldwide in the year 2010, according to a new edition of the World Cancer Report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Low- and middle-income countries will experience the impact of higher cancer incidence and death rates more sharply than industrialized countries, according to the report. This news is in contrast with another recent report that shows that cancer incidence and death rates for men and women in the United States continue to decline, as reported by Medscape Oncology.

The new report was discussed at an event in Atlanta, Georgia called Conquering Cancer: A Global Effort.

Cases of cancer doubled globally between 1975 and 2000, will double again by 2020, and will nearly triple by 2030, says the report. There were an estimated 12 million new cancer diagnoses and more than 7 million deaths worldwide this year. The projected numbers for 2030 are 20 to 26 million new diagnoses and 13 to 17 million deaths.

The global community can expect increases of incidence of about 1% each year, with larger increases in China, Russia, and India. According to the report, reasons for the increased rates include adoption of tobacco use and higher-fat diets in less-developed countries, and demographic changes, including a projected population increase of 38% in less-developed countries between 2008 and 2030.

"The rapid increase in the global cancer burden represents a real challenge for health systems worldwide. However, there is a clear message of hope: Although cancer is a devastating disease, it is largely preventable. We know that preventive measures, such as tobacco control, reduction in alcohol consumption, increased physical activity, vaccinations for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus, and screening and awareness, could have a great impact on reducing the global cancer burden," said Peter Boyle, PhD, DSc, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in a statement.

"We recognize that cancer strikes without regard to borders or socioeconomic status," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, which was one of the groups that organized and sponsored the Atlanta event.

"Even in a challenging economy, people realize that with cancer there is progress to be made and prevention measures to be taken," said Lance Armstrong, founder and chair of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, another of the event organizers, which also included Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Additional challenges in cancer care, especially in Africa, include pain management and palliative care, which are limited by restrictions and prohibitions on narcotics in several countries.

The event organizers called for action steps, such as making vaccines that prevent cancer-causing infections more widely available to low-income nations, including the HPV vaccine. Other action step is committing to a comprehensive tobacco-control approach in the United States, which includes having Congress grant the US Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.