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Global cancer rates predicted to soar over next two decades

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
cancer rates, increase, global health, developed nations, developing nations

A new study predicts that the global cancer rate will increase by more than 75% by 2030. Dr. Freddie Bray, PhD and colleagues affiliated with the International Agency for Research on Cancer forecast that cancer will become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the coming decades in every region of the world. They predict that the number of individuals with cancer worldwide will surge to 22.2 million by 2030, marking an increase from 12.7 million in 2008.

The researchers published their findings online on June 1 in The Lancet Oncology

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The researchers accessed four levels of data (low, medium, high, and very high) from the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI levels refer to the degree of a nation’s economic development. The index is a composite indicator of life expectancy, education, and gross domestic product per head, to highlight cancer-specific patterns in 2008 (on the basis of GLOBOCAN estimates) and trends 1988—2002 (on the basis of the series in Cancer Incidence in Five Continents). Those cancer assessment tools were used to predict the number of cancer patients worldwide by 2039.

The investigators reported that nations with a low HDI score (predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa) currently have a high incidence of cancers associated with infection, particularly cervical cancer and, depending on region or nation, stomach cancer, liver cancer, or Kaposi's sarcoma. In contrast, HDI nations currently have a greater number of cancer cases more commonly associated with smoking, reproductive factors, obesity, and diet. The researchers found that in the highest HDI regions in 2008, cancers of the female breast, lung, colon/rectum, and prostate comprised half the overall cancer cases; in medium HDI regions, cancers of the esophagus, stomach, and liver were also common. Together, these seven types cancers accounted for 62% of the total cancer cases in medium to very high HDI areas. In low HDI regions, cervical cancer was more common than both breast cancer and liver cancer. In 184 nations, nine different cancers were the most commonly diagnosed in men; the most common were cancers of the prostate, lung, and liver. For women, the most common types were breast and cervical cancers. In medium HDI and high HDI nations, decreases in cervical and stomach cancer incidence appeared to be offset by increases in the incidence of cancers of the female breast, prostate, and colon/rectum. The authors noted that if the cancer-specific and gender-specific trends estimated in their study continued, they predicted an increase in the incidence of all cancer cases from 12.7 million new cases in 2008 to 22.2 million by 2030.

The researchers noted that significant variation in the types of cancer occurring in different regions of the globe existed; this variation was based on their level of economic development. They noted that the predicted increases were dramatic, particularly in middle-income and low-income nations, many of which are currently focused on diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, but do not have an infrastructure to deal with increasing cancer cases. They wrote that their findings suggest that rapid societal and economic transition in many nations means that any reductions in infection-related cancers are offset by an increasing number of new cases that are more associated with reproductive, dietary, and hormonal factors. They noted that targeted interventions can lead to a decrease in the projected increases in cancer cases via effective primary prevention strategies, together with the implementation of vaccination, early detection, and effective treatment programs.

Reference: The Lancet Oncology