Worldwide cancer cases are expected to rise from 14 million to 22 million, and cancer-related deaths from 8.2 million to 14 million per year in the next two decades, according to the World Health Organization's World Cancer Report 2014.
WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says governments throughout the world should take active preventative measures to deal with the problem. IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild said that "more commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally."
Cancer rates are growing because globally, populations are expanding and aging. The increase is expected to be concentrated in developing nations in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia, where 60 percent of the world's cancer cases and 70 percent of cancer deaths occur.
This doesn't mean that people who live in developed countries, where access to early detection and treatment is more readily available, should feel that any interest in the problem is purely selfless:
The spiraling costs of the cancer burden are damaging the economies of even the richest countries and are way beyond the reach of developing countries, as well as placing impossible strains on health-care systems. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach approximately US$ 1.16 trillion.
The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being. These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception.
According to the IARC, the most common cancer cases as of 2012 were lung (13 percent), breast (11.9 percent), large bowel (9.7 percent), and the most common cancer deaths were lung (19.4 percent), liver (9.1 percent), and stomach (8.8 percent). Per CNN, the report authors note that about half of cancer deaths are preventable:
The report said about half of all cancers were preventable, and could be avoided if current medical knowledge was acted upon. The disease could be tackled by addressing lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise; adopting screening programs; or, in the case of infection-triggered cancers such as cervical and liver cancers, through vaccines.
This, in addition to a commitment to funding screenings and treatment in developing nations, would go a long way to fight the imminent threat.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.