The number of diagnosed cancer cases will more than double between 2000 and 2030, primarily in poor countries, A United Nations research agency said today.
Dr Peter Boyle, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer said the reasons for the increase included population growth, increased life expectancies and the transfer from the developed world to the developing world of cancer risk factors such as smoking.
These added to the existing risks in poor countries such as communicable diseases and lack of health care, he said.
In 2000 the agency estimated 11 million new cases of diagnosed cancer worldwide, seven million deaths from cancer and 25 million people living with cancer.
“We currently estimate that between the year 2000 and 2030, there’ll be a more than doubling of the numbers of cases of cancer diagnosed each year,” Boyle said. “And the great majority of this increase is going to be in the low- and medium-resource countries.”
The agency expects that by the year 2030, there will be 27 million cases of cancer, 17 million deaths from cancer and 75 million people living with cancer.
“We’ve been concentrating on cancer in high-resource countries and until essentially Aids came along, we haven’t looked too closely at what’s going on in low-resource countries,” Boyle said.
But he says new research shows that as time has progressed, there has been an increasing shift of cancer to poor countries.
“What’s going to happen between now and 2030 is that the population is going to increase from about 6.5 billion to eight billion in 2030,” Boyle said. “So even if the risks remain constant at each five-year age group, because we’ve got more people around, we’re going to have more cases of cancer.”
A second factor leading to a rise in cancer cases is the increase in life expectancy in the majority of countries, with the exception of some Aids-ravaged countries in Africa, he says.
Both China and India have continual growth in the number of people living longer, Boyle said. “So if you’ve got more old people in the population with the same risks as the younger people, you’re going to have more cases of cancer in the older population,” he said.
Boyle said one of the unfortunate successes for developed countries in the last 40 years had been their export of cancer risk factors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, to poor countries.
“These three elements are going to come together and that is going to drive up the global cancer button over the next 30 years,” Boyle said.
Twenty-five years ago, the mortality rate for cancer of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus was exactly the same in Britain and the US as it was in Central European countries, said Boyle.
“Today the mortality rate is 10 times higher in Central Europe than it is in the US, Britain and Western European countries,” Boyle said.
He attributed the explosion of alcohol consumption in Central Europe to economic changes in the late 1980s.
The agency has just finished an estimate of cancer cases and deaths in all UN World Health Organisation regions which found that breast cancer was the commonest or second commonest form of cancer in every region of the world.
The study also found that the commonest type of cancer for men in Africa was Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is directly linked to the Aids/HIV epidemic there.
The agency also found that there were commonly more people in the world who died of cancer than those who died of tuberculosis, Aids and malaria combined.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is based in Lyon, France, was established in 1965 by a resolution of the World Health Assembly to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures could be found. More than 300 reports are given every year regarding cancer studies.