Globally, cancer cases are expected to increase 75 percent by 2030 because of longer life spans, lower rates of other life-threatening diseases and the spread of unhealthy elements of Western lifestyles, according to a study reported by The Associated Press (AP).
For the study, researchers at the American Cancer Society and the International Agency for Research on Cancer analyzed cancer trend data and demographic projections from the United Nations. They determined that by 2030, there would be an additional 22.2 million cancer cases in 184 countries. They project that in some of the poorest countries, cancer rates will rise by as much as 90 percent.
The researchers acknowledged that these numbers are uncertain, largely because so little data is available from developing nations. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, cancer registries only cover 10 percent of the population.
While cancers with an infectious cause—such as vaginal cancer and hepatitis-related liver cancers—are declining, this decrease is outpaced by increases in other forms of cancer. These include cancers such as breast, lung and colon cancer that are related to lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol use, poor diet and lack of exercise. In fact, as many as one-fifth of the new cancer cases may be linked to such habits.
More broadly, efforts to eliminate other diseases such as malaria have lengthened life spans to the point that cancer—which primarily affects older people—has finally become a meaningful source of mortality.
Experts recommend that developing countries take steps now to prepare for this increase in cancer cases—such as offering vaccinations against cervical cancer—so that they aren’t overwhelmed later by an influx of patients, which they lack the money, personnel and facilities to support. Such nations are also advised to focus on prevention because cancer treatment is so expensive. This includes studying Western cultures so as to avoid making the same lifestyle mistakes.
Exercising more, eating a better diet and quitting smoking might be enough to cut the projected cancer rate by one-third to one-half, said cancer expert Raghib Ali, MRCP, of Oxford University. “Unfortunately, these are a lot of the things that people don’t want to do.”
To read the AP report, click here.