WHO Report: Stunning Increase in Worldwide Cancer Predicted
America launched its “War on Cancer” more than 40 years ago. But despite decades of research, and improvements in both screening and care, cancer, not America, seems to be winning the war. This deadly killer among us is showing no signs of backing down; and the news is even worse worldwide.
The World Health Organization released its 2014 cancer report yesterday, and the news is staggering: within the next 20 years, the number of cancer diagnoses worldwide will rise from 14 million to a predicted 22 million annually – an increase of 57 percent.
At the same time, cancer deaths are predicted to increase even more quickly – from 8.2 million to 13 million annually, a 59 percent rise. (Stewart, 20140)
Cancer is already at epidemic proportions: today, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer before age 75. One in 8 men and 1 in 12 women will die from cancer. (Walton, 2014)
What’s behind these numbers – and is there any way to slow cancer’s progress?
The good news is, researchers and scientists have identified many of cancer’s root causes: and they all stem from lifestyle, not genetics. The WHO report estimates that 30 percent of cancer deaths are a direct result of “bad behavior:” smoking, alcohol use, obesity, a poor diet, and lack of exercise.
In addition, a full 50 percent of cancer cases could be prevented by successfully addressing the above issues, plus vaccinating against sexually transmitted diseases; reducing air pollution (both indoor and out); controlling occupational hazards, and eliminating over-exposure to sunlight, the chief cause of skin cancer.
So, cancer isn’t inevitable - it’s preventable. We know how to win the war; the question is, do we have the will to do so?
Cancer prevention is both complicated and expensive. But so is cancer itself: according to the WHO report, cancer is the worldwide “leading cause of financial loss due to disability and premature death.” (Walton, 2014)
What’s the global solution here?
Agreement by governments that the expense of cancer prevention outweighs the cost of its treatment. And that’s where national will comes in: with so many nations in dire financial straits, it’s difficult – some would say impossible – to agree to spend millions or billions of dollars on something without an immediate return on investment.
But without legislation around healthy behaviors; without cleaning up industrial waste sites, reducing air pollution, and providing adequate screening to detect cancer early, while treatment is still simple and relatively inexpensive, cancer will continue to win the war.
What does all of this mean to us in America, specifically? A report issued in September by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Science, mirrors many of the predictions made in the WHO report: the number of new cancer patients in America is expected to rise by nearly 45 percent over the next 16 years. And the cost to treat all of those new survivors will rise from $72 billion in 2004 to an estimated $125 billion by as early as 2020 (Hamel, 2013).
On the up side, the Institute’s report includes six specific recommendations that we, as a nation, can use to deal with this “cancer care challenge.” The real challenge will be following those recommendations – none of which is easy, nor comes with an inexpensive price tag.
Beaubien, J. (2014, February 04). Global cancer cases rising at an alarming rate worldwide. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/04/271519414/global-cancer-cases-rising-at-an-alarming-rate-worldwide
Hamel, P. (2013, November 24). Cancer care: Can America step it up? Retrieved from http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/78/164484/cancer-care-america-step
Stewart, B. (2014, February 03). Global battle against cancer won’t be won with treatment alone effective prevention measures urgently needed to prevent cancer crisis. Retrieved from http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2014/pdfs/pr224_E.pdf
Walton, A. (2014, February 04). Study: Cancer rates rising across the globe. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/02/04/who-to-tackle-rising-cancer-rates-focus-on-prevention/