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Cancer Epidemic Calls for New Agenda Setting

Cancer Experts Explore the Issue at the 2010 IAEA Scientific Forum

Cancer

Cancer and health experts during the Scientific Forum during the 54th IAEA General Conference. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Can we hope that significantly more resources and much greater awareness can be mobilized to make cancer control in the developing world a global health priority?

Cancer experts gathered at the Scientific Forum during the 54th IAEA General Conference to answer just this question. Although the situation looks grim - cancer has not received the forceful attention this ravaging disease warrants, nor has it been included among the Millennium Development Goals - the panellists and experts in the audience agreed that priorities can be changed. With sufficient political resolve, cancer can become a priority issue on the global health agenda.

Franco Cavalli, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the European School of Oncology, noted that many governments are afraid to talk about cancer because to be effective, cancer care and control requires a health care system that is robust from the ground up. And many countries simply do not have such a system.

Cavalli also said efforts by non-governmental organisations, civil society and international organisations will never be successful, unless national governments are interested and enthusiastic about curing cancer, which many view as a challenge that is too expensive or too complex to overcome.

Eduardo Cazap, President of the International Union for Cancer Control, said it is necessary to have a wider perspective when combating cancer, since the lack of access to treatment plagues the poor and uninsured in all countries, even rich, developed nations.

Background

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in high income countries, cancers of the colorectum, lung, breast, prostate and stomach dominate. In low- and middle income countries, cancer of the lung, stomach, breast, liver, colorectum and cervix are dominant.

However, this pattern is changing rapidly in many parts of the world, where lung and breast cancers, once historically uncommon, are increasing considerably.

The continued growth and ageing of the world´s population, in combination with exposure to cancer risks such as tobacco use, will greatly exacerbate the future cancer burden. By 2030, it is expected that there will be over 21 million incident cases of cancer, 13 million cancer deaths annually, and 75 million persons alive with cancer.

If cancer is not given higher priority through focused global efforts, health-care systems in less developed countries will face even more burdensome challenges as the number of cancer cases increase.

See Story Resource for more information.

--By Sasha Henriques, IAEA Division of Public Information