New estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) estimate that one in five men and one in six women will develop cancer in their lifetimes, according to The Guardian. They project 18.1 million new cases this year, resulting in 9.6 million deaths. The figures represent an increase from IARC’s last figures, released four years ago, that showed 14.1 million cases and 8.2 million deaths. The increase comes despite improvements in early diagnosis and prevention.
In the developed world, lifestyle causes accounted for many of these cases, such as smoking and its relationship to lung cancer, and a similar link between breast cancer and alcohol and obesity. Some of the increase is due to the expansion and aging of populations. In developing nations, populations are increasingly living the problematic lifestyles that until now have been limited to richer countries.
The Globocan 2018 report says in affluent nations between “one-third to two-fifths of new cancer cases could be avoided by eliminating or reducing exposure to known lifestyle and environmental risk factors.”
The cancer cases were disproportionately concentrated in these richer countries. Almost a quarter of all cases and over 20 percent of deaths were in Europe, which only accounts for 9 percent of the global population. In the Americas, home to 13.3 percent of the global population, there were 21 percent of the world’s cancer cases and over 14 percent of deaths.
In Asia, the numbers are reversed, with 48 percent of global cases and 57 percent of deaths. Africa had over 7 percent of global deaths and less than 6 percent of global cancer cases.
“Cancer is an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, in every world region, and irrespective of the level of human development,” according to the report.
Lung cancer is still the top killer, responsible for nearly a quarter of global deaths. For women, breast cancer was the number one killer, although there was a notable rise in cases of lung cancer among women, now the top cause of cancer deaths for women in countries such as Denmark, China, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
IARC director Dr. Christopher Wild said:
“These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play. Efficient prevention and early detection policies must be implemented urgently to complement treatments in order to control this devastating disease across the world.”