Skip to content

    Cancer Health Center

    Font Size

    Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030

    Report Predicts Poor Nations Will See Biggest Increases in Cancer

    Cancer Burden Will Double continued...

    The dramatic increase in smoking in low- and medium-income countries, which began in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, is the biggest single cause of the projected increase, which is expected to peak in 2030.

    It takes about 40 years for big increases in smoking rates to be reflected in smoking-related diseases like lung cancer and emphysema, Boyle says.

    "The big tobacco companies started to move pretty strongly into these low- and medium-resource countries in the early 1990s at about the same time that we were working very aggressively to reduce tobacco use in Western countries," he says.

    According to the report:

    • About 1.3 billion people smoke worldwide.
    • About 12% of cancers in low-income countries can be attributed to tobacco use, but this figure is expected to rise substantially.
    • Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer worldwide.

    Breast cancers are also on the rise in low-income countries, where incidence rates have been increasing by up to 5% a year.

    And cervical cancer, which is largely preventable and treatable in the industrialized world, is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women living in poor regions, including many areas of Africa.

    Regional Differences Persist

    The report highlighted regional differences in cancer incidence and death.

    Among the findings:

    • Breast cancer rates in Japan, Singapore, and Korea have doubled or tripled over the last four decades.
    • Across Asia, the rate of stomach cancer is high because of a lack of refrigeration. Since the 1930s, when refrigerators became popular, mortality rates from stomach cancer in the U.S. have declined by about 90%.
    • Chewing tobacco is an important cancer risk factor in India.
    • Roughly one in three cancers in low-income countries are caused by chronic infections like hepatitis B, human papilloma virus (HPV), and HIV. These cancers are increasingly preventable or treatable, but vaccination, screening, and treatment are not widely available in these countries.
    • In Africa, pain medication for terminal cancer is generally limited or nonexistent because narcotics are illegal.

    Boyle points out that 29 countries in Africa do not allow the importation of morphine and other opioids, and 30 countries do not have radiation therapy machines to treat bone pain.

    Today on WebMD

    man holding lung xray
    What you need to know.
    stem cells
    How they work for blood cancers.
    woman wearing pink ribbon
    Separate fact from fiction.
    Colorectal cancer cells
    Symptoms, screening tests, and more.
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    what is your cancer risk
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    prostate cancer overview
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    Actor Michael Douglas