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Global Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030

Report Predicts Poor Nations Will See Biggest Increases in Cancer
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 9, 2008 -- Cancer deaths are projected to more than double worldwide over the next two decades, largely from a dramatic increase in cancer incidence in low- and middle-income countries driven by tobacco use and increasingly Westernized lifestyles.

A new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) explores the global burden of cancer, which is poised to become the leading cause of death worldwide by 2010.

The report predicts that:

  • By 2030, 27 million new cancer cases and 17 million cancer deaths will occur each year worldwide. That compares to 12 million new cancers and slightly less than 8 million cancer deaths in 2007.
  • Based on current trends, the rate at which new cancers are diagnosed is expected to grow by 1% annually, as are deaths from the disease.
  • China, Russia, and India are projected to have the biggest increases in cancers and cancer deaths.
  • Smoking and other lifestyle factors like obesity will overtake chronic infection as the leading cause of cancer in poor and middle-income countries.

The projections stand in striking contrast to encouraging cancer trends in the United States.

A report released earlier this month showed a decline in both cancer incidence and cancer deaths for the first time in a decade.

This highlights the point that the burden of cancer is shifting to less industrialized regions, IARC Director Peter Boyle, MD, tells WebMD.

"Forty years ago, cancer was primarily a disease of high-resource, industrialized countries," Boyle says. "That isn't true anymore. When we think of low-resource countries, we think of communicable diseases as the big killers. But each year more people across the globe die of cancer than die of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined."

Cancer Burden Will Double

Around the world, the burden of cancer doubled between 1975 and 2000, and it is predicted to double again by 2020 and triple by 2030.

Boyle notes that in 1970, just 15% of cancers occurred in poor and medium-resource countries.

Today, more than half of cancer cases and two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in these underserved countries, and the disparity is expected to rise.

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