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The Global Cancer Burden

Why Global Cancer Rates are Rising

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and 10 million deaths in 2020 were attributed to cancer. Low-and-middle-income countries shoulder most of the cancer burden. In 2020, out of nearly 10 million cancer-related deaths worldwide, 70% were in low-and-middle-income countries1. The disparity is even more striking in case of cervical cancer where 90% of new cases and deaths from this preventable cancer occurs in low- and middle-income countries2. Cancer incidence in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is projected to increase more than 92% in 2020 and 20403. Low and middle-income countries (LMICs) have limited resources to respond to the overwhelming challenges that cancer brings to national health systems. As a result, citizens lack access to cancer-preventing vaccination and screening, are diagnosed late, do not have access to treatment and pain relief, and do not receive adequate support to meet their psycho-social and resource needs.    

Although our understanding of cancer is greater than at any other point in history, cancer continues to be a leading cause of death largely because of lack of application of known interventions. A comprehensive response that promotes prevention, early detection, treatment, and pain control is critical to saving lives and alleviating needless suffering and will expedite the control of cancer earlier in this century.

How to Learn More

Use these resources to learn more about the global cancer burden and get information specific to your country.

Global Cancer Facts & Figures: This publication, now in its fourth edition, provides an overview of the international cancer burden, including the estimated numbers of new cancer cases and deaths worldwide and by level of economic development, as well as detailed information on select cancer sites.

The Cancer Atlas: A book and website created by The American Cancer Society, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Union for International Cancer Control. This resource is a one-stop shop for all of the best global cancer data available and offers in-depth insights into the cancer burden, major risk factors, and ways leaders worldwide can take action.

1 WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. Estimated number of deaths in 2020, all cancers, both sexes, all ages. Cancer today. Published 2020. Accessed January 14, 2022.

2Sung H, Ferlay J, Siegel RL, Laversanne M, Soerjomataram I, Jemal A, et al. Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin. 2021:71:209–49. doi:10.3322/caac.21660. 

3 WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. Estimated number of new cases from 2020 to 2040, Incidence, Both sexes, age [0-85+]. Published 2020. Accessed January 14, 2022.