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Sub-Saharan Africa

The Cancer Burden in Africa

The cancer burden is rising in the countries of Africa. About 650,000 people in Africa develop cancer annually. Because treatment remains largely unavailable or inaccessible, about 510,000 cancer deaths occur annually, an 80 percent mortality ratio. More than one-third of the cancer deaths in Africa are due to cancers that are easily preventable and/or treatable if detected early.

With more than 90 years of experience and as the largest and most experienced voluntary health agency in the world, the American Cancer Society is well-positioned to fight cancer in Africa. The American Cancer Society is sharing its unique expertise with other cancer control organizations, advocacy groups, and health care professionals in long-term initiatives that build capacity, share information, and strengthen tobacco control.


American Cancer Society Involvement

Tobacco Control

The African Tobacco Control Consortium is a coalition of public health organizations focused on preventing a tobacco epidemic in Africa. The Consortium is coordinated by the American Cancer Society in partnership with the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). This five year project is funded primarily through a $7 million dollar grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

As the coordinating organization, the American Cancer Society will collaborate with consortium partners to implement an ambitious tobacco control program across the 46 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The overall goal will be to prevent and reduce tobacco use in these countries by implementing proven strategies at the national and local level. Click here for more information on the African Tobacco Control Consortium.

The American Cancer Society, in partnership with Cancer Research UK, coordinates the African Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI). ATCRI is hosted by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria. The initiative promotes effective tobacco control policies in Africa through advocacy, research, surveillance, and training, to prevent and reverse tobacco consumption trends in the region. Click here for more information on ATCRI.


We work with a network of leading journalists throughout Africa to enhance their ability to cover news stories about the cancer and tobacco pandemics. In Africa, awareness of the growing cancer threat on the continent is low and efforts to engage the media are critical to educating the public. With our support, several journalists have attended key cancer and tobacco control conferences to provide extensive coverage of these events in their national and local publications. Journalist programs like these establish networks between reporters and regional health care and NGO leaders, and outline strategies for covering cancer and tobacco-related stories. Click on the following links to read about our media summits in Tanzania and South Africa.

Capacity Building

The American Cancer Society has enrolled more than 40 cancer control leaders from the African region through the American Cancer Society University (ACSU), our signature international program. ACSU alumni have applied their training and competitive seed grant funding in their home countries to develop successful cancer control programs, such as the launch of a call center in Nigeria that provides breast cancer information and support. Other ACSU alumni have conducted surveys in Tanzanian schools to assess smoking prevalence among youth in Dar es Salaam.

Collaborations are critical to our efforts to build cancer control capacity in low- and middle-income countries. We have participated in World Health Organization (WHO) public health and cancer planning meetings in Africa. In Cape Town, South Africa, we partnered with the WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO) to host a cancer control planning discussion that brought together 20 of the region’s cancer control leaders to discuss and assess cancer control planning readiness.

The American Cancer Society provides support to the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), a premier organization promoting and organizing cancer control efforts in Africa. AORTIC is the only Pan-African nongovernmental organization dedicated to advancing the fight against cancer. Our work with AORTIC includes communications and strategic planning support, needs assessments, Web site content, advocacy activities, and conference support.

We are also working with our partners in five countries to gain better insight on knowledge, attitudes, and cancer control practices in Africa. Efforts are underway to pilot targeted capacity building and training activities in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.