Cancer on the Rise in Developing Countries: Report

FRIDAY Feb. 4, 2011 -- To mark World Cancer Day, the American Cancer Society issued a new report Friday warning that changing lifestyles linked to economic growth in developing countries are driving up the global incidence of several cancers.

In fact, the majority of the world's new cancer cases and deaths (7.1 million and 4.8 million, respectively) are now occurring in economically developing countries, the authors of the report noted. And this, they say, reflects the growing adoption of unhealthy behaviors -- such as smoking, sedentary lifestyles and poor diets -- that typically accompany economic development.

The report, "Global Cancer Facts & Figures," highlights lung, breast and colorectal cancers as being particularly vulnerable to this dynamic.

Along those lines, about one-third of all cancer deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008 (equal to roughly 7,300 deaths per day) might have been avoided by focusing on preventable risk factors such as smoking, drinking, infection patterns and dietary habits, American Cancer Society chief medical officer Dr. Otis W. Brawley suggested in an editorial accompanying the report.

"The worldwide application of existing cancer control knowledge according to the capacity and economic development of countries or regions could lead to the prevention of even more cancer deaths in the next two to three decades," he stated in a news release from the society.

"In order to achieve this, however, national and international public health agencies, governments, donors, and the private sectors must play major roles in the development and implementation of national or regional cancer control programs worldwide," he added.

The full American Cancer Society analysis is slated to be published, along with Brawley's editorial, in the Feb. 4 edition of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The authors of the report noted that as stark as global disease figures already were in 2008 (12.7 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths), those numbers are expected to almost double by 2030 as the world's population both grows and ages.

In economically developed nations, as of 2008, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers are the most prevalent among men, while breast, colorectal and lung cancers are the most common among women.

By contrast, in developing countries, the biggest risk for men appears to be lung, stomach and liver cancers, with breast, cervical and lung cancers the primary cancer threats for women.

The authors also noted that while just 10 percent of all cancers in the economically developed world are a function of infection, that figure rises to one-quarter of all cancers in the economically developing world.

More information

For the more information on cancer causes and risks, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Posted: February 2011


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