Cancer takes growing toll in developing world

January/February 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 1

Cancer and other chronic diseases are reaching epidemic proportions globally and are taking a particular toll on populations in the developing world. The increase is partly due to the aging population but is also the result of their adoption of cancer-causing behaviors, such as a western diet, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.

More than half the global cancer deaths in 2008 occurred in the developing world, according to WHO estimates. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among females in poor countries, with lung cancer claiming the most lives of males who die of cancer, according to a recent analysis, Global cancer statistics, published in an American Cancer Society journal.

Cancer survival tends to be poorer in developing countries, most likely because of a combination of late diagnosis and limited access to treatment, the study suggests. Many cancers could be prevented by applying existing knowledge, implementing tobacco control programs, vaccinating against liver and cervical cancers, providing early detection and treatment, and instituting public health campaigns promoting healthy diets and exercise.

Cancer on the rise globally



Horizontal bar graph showing global number of new cancer cases, in millions, by year, full description at end of article

Source: “Globocan 2008,” International Agency for Research on Cancer/WHO

Read the text description of the "Cancer on the rise globally" chart below.

To combat this crisis, the National Cancer Institute at NIH has been working on numerous fronts throughout the developing world, including establishing cancer registries, increasing the availability of palliative care and supporting research training in cancer so the scientific capacity exists to help combat the disease.

For example, in 1996 NCI helped establish the Middle East Cancer Consortium, a unique partnership between the U.S. and the health ministries of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. The consortium’s initial activity was to establish cancer registries and network them across borders. The registries are an important tool that can be used to inform public health planning, cancer research and cancer control programs. The initiative also supports cancer research collaborations and helps increase the availability of palliative care and information about its role in treatment plans.

For nearly a decade, NCI has partnered with Fogarty to combat tobacco consumption in low- and middle-income countries by supporting trans-disciplinary research and capacity building projects. The International Tobacco and Health Research and Capacity Building Program funds efforts that pursue research of local importance and build capacity in epidemiological and behavioral research, prevention, treatment, communications, health services and policy research.

More recently, NCI partnered with Fogarty to launch the U.S.-Latin America Cancer Research Network, an effort to support high-quality research and clinical studies. The network - currently operating in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay - is charged with developing a comprehensive understanding of the status of the cancer disease burden, research enterprise and care infrastructure in each country.

A program building research capacity on the topic of HIV-associated malignancies in sub-Saharan Africa is the latest joint effort by NCI and Fogarty. In 2010, three-year grants were awarded to eight sub-Saharan African countries to train scientists on this critical research area.

More Information


“Global Cancer Statistics.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Feb. 4, 2011.

All articles in the special Focus on Cancer section were developed by the National Cancer Institute and originally published in the NCI Cancer Bulletin and were edited for space. View the full versions of the November 30, 2010 NCI Cancer Bulletin Special Issue: Global Collaboration.

 

Text description of "Cancer on the rise globally" chart

Horizontal bar graph showing global number of new cancer cases, in millions, for the years 2008, 2020 and 2030. For each year, three colors differentiate between 1) more developed regions (green), 2) less developed regions (red), and 3) the world as a whole (blue). The chart demonstrates that there are more new cancer cases in less developed regions than in more developed regions. A visual interpretation of the data presented on the chart follows.

  • For 2008:
    • More developed regions (green bar) – more than 5 million cases
    • Less developed regions (red bar) – more than 7 million cases
    • World as a whole (blue bar) – more than 12 million cases
    • Black arrow emphasizes gap of about 2 million between more developed and less developed regions
  • For 2020
    • More developed regions (green bar) – about 7 million cases
    • Less developed regions (red bar) – almost 10 million cases
    • World as a whole (blue bar) – about 17 million cases
    • Black arrow emphasizes gap of about 3 million between more developed and less developed regions
  • For 2030
    • More developed regions (green bar) – about 7.5 million cases
    • Less developed regions (red bar) – about 13 million cases
    • World as a whole (blue bar) – more than 20 million cases
    • Black arrow emphasizes gap of about 5.5 million between more developed and less developed regions

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