The Global Cancer Burden

Cancer causes 1 in 8 deaths worldwide and is rapidly becoming a global pandemic. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 14.1 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer deaths in 2012. If rates don’t change, the global cancer burden is expected to increase to 21.7 million cases and 13 million deaths by 2030. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the toll of cancer and other chronic diseases is greater in low- and middle-income countries, where people develop chronic diseases “at younger ages, suffer longer – often with preventable complications – and die sooner than those in high-income countries

Why Global Cancer Rates are Rising

A key factor in the increase in the number of cancer cases and deaths is that the global population is growing and aging. In addition, there is a lack of access to information about prevention, early detection, and treatment in developing countries, and an inadequate medical and public health infrastructure. As a result, cancers are often diagnosed at a late stage, and people suffer needlessly from inadequate palliative care.

Although our understanding of cancer is unprecedented, 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 third 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.

Global Burden of Cancer in Women: As a part of a larger partnership with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the American Cancer Society released a report at the World Cancer Congress focusing on the increasing impact of cancer in low- and middle-income countries, both on women’s health and their economic participation. The report emphasizes that while the societal and economic costs of cancer are considerable and even catastrophic, this burden of disease, loss of life, and economic hardship is not inevitable.

The Cost of Cervical Cancer Prevention: A study commissioned by the American Cancer Society and conducted by the Harvard Center for Health Decision Science, to estimate the cost of scaling up coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening and preventive treatment for women in low- and middle-income countries from 2015 to 2024. The report demonstrates that these two prevention and early detection interventions provide good value for public health and have the potential to avert millions of deaths from cervical cancer.

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.

The Tobacco Atlas: The most comprehensive, informative, and accessible resource on the pressing issues in the evolving tobacco epidemic. The fifth edition of the book and companion website, produced by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation and released March 2015, detail tobacco’s role in non-communicable diseases, gender inequality, environmental devastation, and the rapidly growing use of e-cigarettes and water pipes.

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