All Round View (New York): The World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, has warned that cancer cases would rise by 81 percent in low- and middle-income countries by 2040 because of a lack of investment in prevention and care.
In a report, the Geneva-based agency said that these countries had focused their limited resources on combating infectious diseases and improving maternal and child health instead of fighting cancer. It said they often had the highest cancer mortality too.
Less than 15 per cent of these nations offer comprehensive cancer treatment services through their public health systems, compared with more than 90 per cent among their richer counterparts, according to the UN agency.
“At least 7 million lives could be saved over the next decade, by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation, by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage, and by mobilizing different stakeholders to work together”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Ahead of World Cancer Day on Tuesday, WHO and it’s specialized International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have released two reports: one aimed at setting the global agenda on the disease; the other focused on research and prevention.
The reports highlight numerous proven interventions such as controlling tobacco use, which is responsible for a quarter of all cancer deaths; vaccinating against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer; and eliminating cervical cancer by vaccinating against HPV.
“This is a wake-up call to all of us to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries,” Ren Minghui, a WHO Assistant Director General, said in the report.
“If people have access to primary care and referral systems then cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured. Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere,” he said.
“Controlling cancer does not have to be expensive,” Andre Ilbawi, of the WHO’s department for management of non-communicable diseases, told reporters.
The annual report found that overall cancer cases in the world would rise by 60 percent by 2040 and said tobacco use was responsible for 25 percent of cancer deaths.
Elisabete Weiderpass, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which works with the WHO, said better cancer treatment in high-income countries had resulted in a 20-percent drop in mortality between 2000 and 2015.
But in poorer countries, the reduction was just five percent.
“We need to see everyone benefiting equally,” she said.
While cancer had long been considered a disease of wealthy countries, this was no longer the case, the report said. It pointed out that one in five people worldwide would face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.
“It’s a global burden,” Ren said.