The World Health Organization (WHO) denounces the “unacceptable inequalities” that exist between rich and poor countries regarding cancer services.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that cancer cases will increase by 81% by 2040 in low- and middle-income countries, due to insufficient resources for prevention.
In a report, the specialized agency of the United Nations warns that if current trends continue, the world will globally experience a 60% increase in cancer cases over the next two decades.
18 million new cases in 2018
In 2018, WHO recorded 18.1 million new cancer cases worldwide, and the organization expects the figure to reach a range of 29 to 37 million by 2040.
The number of new cases will increase the most in low- and middle-income countries, which currently have the lowest survival rates (an estimated 81%).
A major reason for this is that these countries have had to devote limited health resources to fighting infectious diseases and improving the health of mothers and children and that health services are not equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.
Tackling “unacceptable inequalities”
“This is a wake-up call that calls on all of us to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between rich and poor countries in cancer services,” said Dr Ren Minghui, Deputy Director-General of the WHO, cited in a press release.
“When people have access to primary care and referral systems, cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured.”
7 million lives could be saved
WHO presents a range of interventions to prevent new cases of cancer, such as the fight against smoking (responsible for 25% of cancer deaths), vaccination against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, l elimination of cervical cancer by vaccination against the human papillomavirus.
“If we mobilize different stakeholders to work together, we could save at least 7 million lives over the next decade,” said WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, quoted in the statement.
A steeper decline in rich countries
The report shows that research has helped reduce the number of cancer deaths, but the decline has been most pronounced in wealthy countries.
High-income countries have adopted prevention, early diagnosis and screening programs which, combined with improved treatment, have helped reduce the rate of premature death by an estimated 20% between 2000 and 2015.
“In low-income countries, the reduction has been only 5%,” said the director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Elisabete Weiderpass.