Worldwide Cancer Rates Rising


30 September, 2018

Around the world, one in six deaths is from cancer. And a new study notes an increase in cancer rates around the world.

This study comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). It attempts to estimate the number of cancer cases and cancer death rates in 185 countries.

The study estimates that 18 million new cancer cases will be reported in 2018. It adds that about 9.6 million people are expected to die of cancer this year.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against certain types of cancer. Here, nurse Stephanie Pearson gives Lauren Fant the HPV vaccine at a doctor's office in Georgia, U.S., 2007. (AP Photo)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against certain types of cancer. Here, nurse Stephanie Pearson gives Lauren Fant the HPV vaccine at a doctor's office in Georgia, U.S., 2007. (AP Photo)

The study found that, around the world, one in five men and one in six women develop cancer during their lifetime. It also found that more men than women die of cancer.

The study estimates that nearly half of the new cancer cases and more than half of cancer deaths this year will take place in Asia. This is partly because nearly 60 percent of the world's population lives on that continent.

The new study looked at 36 kinds of cancer. The most common were:

  • lung
  • breast
  • colorectal
  • prostate
  • skin cancer (non-melanoma)
  • and stomach

Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The study estimates that nearly 1.8 million people will die of lung cancer this year.

The study also attempted to show where in the world cancer rates are rising the most.

Freddie Bray is with the International Agency for Research on Cancer. He says that by the year 2040, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise to 29.3 million worldwide. He said this will cause financial hardship in areas lacking the money needed to fight cancer.

"The biggest increases in the cancer burden, a doubling of the cancer burden to 2040, is going to occur in countries at the lowest levels of socio-economic development -- some in Sub-Saharan Africa, some in South America, some in southern Asia. But the countries faced with this increasing cancer burden are presently ill-equipped to deal with the pending increase."

Ways to protect yourself

The WHO reports that between 30–50 percent of cancers can be prevented by avoiding certain risk factors. Some factors may increase a person's chance of getting cancer. Examples are:

  • tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
  • being overweight
  • having an unhealthy diet; not eating enough fruit and vegetables
  • lack of physical exercise
  • alcohol use
  • air pollution
  • burning solid fuels indoors

Etienne Krug is the director of the WHO's Department of Non-Communicable Diseases. To protect yourself, he suggests several steps. He says cutting down on tobacco and alcohol use may reduce your chance of getting cancer. He also suggests that by exercising more and eating better, you may help to protect yourself against cancer.

For some cancers, he says that getting vaccinated may also help. Vaccines can help to strengthen the body's natural defenses against some cancers, like cervical and liver cancers.

"And we also could do a lot by increasing immunization against some cancers like cervical cancer and liver cancers, for example. But for those who have cancer, cancer should not be a death sentence anymore."

Krug suggests that other steps can help to increase cancer survival rates. They include strengthening health services, improving early diagnosis and providing access to proper treatment. He adds that special care should be given to patients with inoperable cancer to help ease their suffering.

For more information, visit the website of the Global Cancer Observatory, which is part of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It has created a detailed web page called CANCER TODAY presenting these findings in easy-to-read infographics.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted her report for Learning English. Her story includes information from several WHO websites, and she included several of the WHO's infographics into this article. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

hardship n. something that causes pain, suffering, or loss

burden n. something that is hard to take

ill-equipped adj. not having the experience or preparation that is needed

pendingadj. not yet decided : being in continuance

factor - n. a detail or fact or event that influences a result

non-communicable medical adj. not capable of being communicated

immunization n. to give (someone) a vaccine to prevent infection by a disease

diagnosis n. the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms

accessn. freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something

infographic n. a chart, diagram, or illustration (as in a book or magazine, or on a website) that uses graphic elements to present information in a visually striking way