Heart disease may be losing its number-one position in the next two years as cancer quickly takes its place as the number-one killer. In reports released on Tuesday by international health experts, global cancer cases and deaths will more than double by the year 2030, with cancer becoming the number-one cause of death worldwide by 2010.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that 12.4 million people would be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year and 7.6 million people will die globally. Much of this trend is attributed to a growing population, rising cancer cases among aging populations (as cancer is more common in the elderly), and an increasing rate of cigarette-smoking in poorer countries.
Lung cancer was the most common form of new cases and deaths for men, and breast cancer the most common type among women, according to the report. There are more deaths among men from cancer than women, and cancer currently accounts for approximately one in eight deaths worldwide. Many forms of cancer are still untreatable, such as mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.
Peter Boyle, director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that “this is going to present amazing problems at every level in every society worldwide” during a news conference. He also stated “there are more deaths in the world from cancer than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.”
Once believed to be a problem for Westernized, wealthier and industrialized countries, cancer has grown to become a global burden and has begun to impact poor and medium-income countries as well. Although wealthier countries have made progress in eliminating cigarette smoking, one of the most common causes of lung cancer and other illnesses, the tobacco industry has found new customers in developing countries, which have limited health budgets. This means that cancer treatment facilities are out of reach for many people, and life-saving treatments are seldom available, according to Boyle.
Although there has been progress against cancer in the United States and Europe through regular screenings for breast and colorectal cancer, an overall decline in smoking rates, and improved cancer treatments, the global threat of cancer has not yet been recognized in some developing countries. For this reason, there has been a gathering of organizations calling on the government to act, including a request to ratify an international tobacco control treaty. These organizations include the American Cancer Society, the Lance Armstrong Foundation,Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Cancer Institute of Mexico, among others.