SWITZERLAND – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has released the latest estimates of the global burden of cancer, with an estimated 20 million new cases and 9.7 million deaths reported in 2022.

IARC is the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, whose mission is to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.

In the latest report, the IARC warned: “Over 35 million new cancer cases are predicted in 2050, which is a 77% increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022.”

It is important to note that the IARC statistics are based on the best sources of data available in 185 countries and 36 countries.

The latest report comes as IARC joined the rest of the world in World Cancer Day, which is held each year on 4 February, to raise awareness of fundamental cancer issues.

Ahead of World Cancer Day 2024, IARC published its new report, which reveals that the estimated number of people who were alive within 5 years following a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million.

The IARC estimates highlight the growing burden of cancer, the disproportionate impact on underserved populations, and the urgent need to address cancer inequities worldwide.

The new estimates available on IARC’s Global Cancer Observatory show that 10 types of cancer collectively comprised around two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally in 2022.

Globally, 900, 000 people died from colorectal cancer, 760, 000 deaths people died from liver cancer, 670, 000 deaths people died from breast cancer, and 660, 000 people died from stomach cancer.

The IARC report draws attention to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death with 1.8 million deaths, and the most commonly occurring cancer worldwide with 2.5 million new cases.

The rapidly growing global cancer burden reflects both population aging and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development.

On cancer treatment outcomes, Dr. Cary Adams, Head of UICC – Union for International Cancer Control, said: “Tools exist to enable governments to prioritize cancer care and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services. This is not just a resource issue but a matter of political will.”

What’s more, the IARC report pinpoints the scale-up of the WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative as a crucial tool for eliminating cervical cancer, the eighth most commonly occurring cancer globally and the ninth leading cause of cancer death.

The new study also provides governments the opportunity to potentially formulate effective approaches to curbing breast cancer, which remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer and leading cause of cancer death.

The report echoes WHO’s published survey results, which revealed that many countries do not adequately finance priority cancer and palliative care services, as part of universal health coverage (UHC).

Global inequities in cancer services

The global WHO survey on UHC and cancer shows that only 39% of participating countries covered the basics of cancer management as part of their financed core health services for all citizens, ‘health benefit packages’ (HBP).

According to the WHO survey, only 28% of participating countries additionally covered care for people who require palliative care, including pain relief in general, and not just linked to cancer.

Data from 115 countries indicates that the three major cancer types reported in 2022 include lung, breast, and colorectal cancers.

Commenting on the cancer inequity by the Human Development Index (HDI), Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram, Deputy Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC, said: “Women in lower HDI countries are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women in high HDI countries.”

Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram further observed that women in lower HDI countries are at a much higher risk of dying of the disease due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment.

As such, the World Health Organization is currently working intensively with more than 75 governments to develop, finance, and implement policies to promote cancer care for all.

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