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Global Cancer Rates Set to Soar by 2030

Cancer Prevention Steps May Help Stem Rise in Cancer Rates
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Cancer Profiles Change as Countries Become More Westernized

David M. Nanus, MD, is the chief of the division of hematology and medical oncology at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He reviewed the findings for WebMD.

"There are two reasons we get cancer," he says. "One is infections. Hepatitis B infection will give you liver cancer and HPV infection will give you cervical cancer," he says. "The other cause is environmental. Breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer are the big four, and they have all been shown to be more environmental than infectious."

What does that mean? It means that as countries become more developed and move toward a more Westernized way of life -- not exercising, eating an unhealthy diet, and smoking -- rates of these cancers will increase, Nanus says. This will occur against the backdrop of lower rates of cancers linked to infection.

Americans are a cautionary tale, he says. "Globally, there has to be a greater emphasis on lifestyle prevention and getting the message across that the Western diet in America is not as great as it is made out to be."

There could be a double whammy. Developing countries will start seeing the same cancers that Westernized countries are seeing, but they won't have the same access to state-of-the-art health care. "There will be a peak in cancers and more deaths due to differences in health care."

Leslie Bernstein, PhD, has seen this shift coming. She is an epidemiologist at the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.

"As we control those cancers which are related to infection like liver cancer and stomach cancer, we are going to see more cancers that are environmentally caused, meaning that they are related to lack of physical activity, obesity, smoking, and things like that," she says.

"These cancers take over as countries become more and more Westernized."

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