The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) released its 2014 World Cancer Report on Monday, stating that cancer cases worldwide are expected to increase 57 percent by 2032. In a press release, researchers stated that the battle against cancer won’t be won with treatment alone, preventative measures must play a key role in fighting cancer.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said that cancer cases are growing “at an alarming pace,” which emphasizes the need for “urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies” in order to curb the disease.
In 2012, there were approximately 14 million new cases of cancer per year, which is expected to rise to 22 million per year over the next two decades. During that same period, cancer deaths are expected to rise from about 8.2 million per year to 13 million annually.
“It’s untenable to think we can treat our way out of the cancer problem. That alone will not be a sufficient response,” Christopher Wild, IARC’s director and co-editor of the World Cancer Report said at a press conference. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed.”
More than 60 percent of the world’s total cases of cancer occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. These regions account for around 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths, in part due to a lack of early detection as well as a lack of access to effective and affordable cancer treatments.
In wealthier countries, the costs of the “cancer burden” are still damaging economies and straining health care systems. According to the IARC, “In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach approximately US $1.16 trillion. Yet about half of all cancers could be avoided if current knowledge was adequately implemented.”
The IARC report stressed preventing smoking in low- and middle-income countries as well as using vaccinations to help control the spread of certain cancers such as cancers of the liver and cervix. In rapidly-industrializing and industrialized countries, a focus on physical activity and controlling obesity is important. Alcohol, obesity, tobacco, and physical inactivity are preventable causes of cancer, the report states.
Cases of cancer due to environmental pollution have also been increasing.
Last year, the cancer agency of the WHO announced that air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Exposure to air pollution has increased dramatically in some parts of the world, including industrializing countries with large populations. In 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer resulted from air pollution.
“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances,” said Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Section. “We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.”