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World Cancer Day: Cancer is increasing globally, World Health Organization warns

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ln this  Aug. 15, 2017 photo, a patient looks at images with her doctor Shumei Kato, left, at the University of California San Diego in San Diego.
ln this Aug. 15, 2017 photo, a patient looks at images with her doctor Shumei Kato, left, at the University of California San Diego in San Diego.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File Photo   -   Gregory Bull
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Cancer cases will increase by 60% worldwide if countries do not work to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

In a report released on World Cancer Day, the international health organisation warned that low and middle-income countries, where there are more limited resources for cancer, could see an 81% increase in cases over the next two decades.

In 2018, there were 18.1 million cases and the organisation estimates that in 2040, there will be 29.4 million cases. An estimated one in six deaths is due to cancer globally, the WHO said.

"We can reverse the tide of cancer, avoiding 7 million unnecessary deaths by 2030", said the organisation's director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the report's forward.

The international organisation says that there are several key steps to take to reduce cancer cases including strengthening tobacco control, vaccinating against HPV, screening for cervical cancer, and scaling up the capacity to treat cases.

Dr Ren Minghui, the assistant director-general for universal health coverage at the organisation said the report served as a "wake-up call to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries."

"Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere," Minghui said in a statement.

In high-income countries, deaths from cancer have been reduced the probability of early mortality by around 20%, said the International Agency for Research on Cancer's Elisabete Weiderpass.

"But low-income countries only saw a reduction of 5%. We need to see everyone benefitting equally.”

Incidence rates of cancer are also higher in the highest-income countries than the lowest-income countries. This is illustrated in a second report released in coordination with the WHO on cancer causes and inequalities worldwide.

Inequalities in cancer prevention and treatment

Disadvantaged groups are often more likely to die of cancer than those living in high-income countries where prevention and treatment is more readily available, the International Agency for Research on Cancer's said in its World Cancer Report.

For instance, the report highlighted that cervical cancer was the second most common cancer after breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa despite being preventable.

"It was found that for women in developing countries the cervical cancer incidence rates were 2-fold higher and the cervical cancer mortality rates were 3-fold higher than those for women in developed countries," the report said.

Poorer countries have more "infection-related cancers", the report said, such as stomach, liver and cervical cancer, whereas richer countries have more "breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, thyroid cancer and melanoma."

The report also notes an urban and rural divide. In China, the report showed that rural populations had fewer rates of cancer than those living in urban areas.

Over 250 people from across the world contributed to the 611-page report that discusses causes, development, prevention, and inequalities among other issues.

Cancer rates in Europe

Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in Europe, but lung cancer is the biggest killer, according to the Global Cancer Observatory.

Almost two million people in Europe died of cancer in 2018.

In the European Union, there is screening for breast and cervical cancers, but, the newly released World Cancer Report states that there should be improved screening coverage in the union.

EU Council President Charles Michel wrote on Twitter for World Cancer Day that the bloc would work to invest "in research, treatment and prevention to help save lives."