Cancer prevalence in Africa special focus of report

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The high prevalence of cancer in Africa is a special focus of a report from the American Cancer Society.
According to the report, the incidence of cancer in Africa continues to increase, but receives little attention from a public health perspective.

A public health concern

In 2008 deaths from cancer in Africa totaled 512,400, with 681,000 new cases. According to the Global Cancer Facts & Figures 2nd edition, cancer in Africa may be receiving little attention from public health officials because of the prevalence of AIDS/HIV infection, malaria, and tuberculosis that take precedence and from limited resources.

Economic development in Africa a contributor to increase in cancer


The findings also raise concerns that more people will develop cancer as unhealthy lifestyle practices continue to emerge from economic development that include smoking, poor diets and physical inactivity.

Among cancer types that are pressing concerns are cervix, liver, Kaposi sarcoma, urinary bladder cancers that come from infectious agents and dominate in Africa. Many are diagnosed in later stages from lack of education of symptoms and poor screening and prevention programs. Compared to the United States, cancer survival rates in Africa are especially low. The report shows five year survival for breast cancer is under 50 percent in Gambia, Uganda, and Algeria, compared to nearly 90 percent in the United States.

Compared to the rest of the world, cancer from tobacco smoking accounts for just six percent of deaths, versus 20 percent worldwide. As marketing efforts increase and economic growth continues, the incidence is expected to rise. Findings from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey show more youth smoke in Africa than adults.

The new report shows cancer is expected to double by 2030 in Africa. Lack of resources, knowledge of symptoms and screening and prevention programs are needed to help curb the problem that is a special focus of the latest Cancer Facts & Figures 2nd edition.

Updated 6/20/2014