The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health".
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths, or one in six deaths, in 2018. (Figure 1)
- As so many cancers can be prevented by relatively low cost measures, the main approach to cancers, particularly for low- and middle-income countries will need to be on prevention.
- As the same measures will prevent deaths from cardiovascular diseases, there is more than double benefit from this approach.
- If this does not happen, then future budgets will be overwhelmed by demand from the long term effects of non-communicable diseases.
Around 70% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (Map 1)
Worldwide, the most common causes of cancer death are cancers of:
- Lung (1.76 million deaths)
- Colorectal (862 000 deaths)
- Stomach (783 000 deaths)
- Liver (782 000 deaths)
- Breast (627 000 deaths)
The most common types of cancer in men and women are
- Men : Lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer.
- Women : Breast, colorectal, lung, cervical and thyroid cancer.
Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks:
- high body mass index
- low fruit and vegetable intake
- lack of physical activity
- tobacco use
- alcohol use
Tobacco : Of these, tobacco is the most important risk factor and is responsible for around 22% of cancer deaths.
(To read more on tobacco, follow this link.)
Infections that cause cancer : Infections like hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25% of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries.
Behaviour and Diet: Between 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The cancer burden can also be reduced through early detection of cancer and management of patients who develop cancer. Prevention also offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.
Immunisation : For some specific diseases, immunisation is possible. Immunisation against human papilloma virus will prevent cervical cancer in future generations of women. Immunisation against hepatitis B will prevent many liver cancers. (See below for more information about cervical and liver cancers.)
Screening : Screening programmes for some specific diseases help to achieve early diagnosis when treatment can be curative. Examples include screening for cervical cancer and breast cancer.
Treatment : Great strides have been taken in the treatment of cancers e.g. surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and best results are usually achieved using a multidisciplinary approach.
Palliative Care : End of life care focuses on the quality of life of the patient and families.