A new cancer study from the World Health Organization

10 February, 2013

This is AS IT IS, from VOA Learning English.  

I’m Christopher Cruise.

Today, Steve Ember tells us about a new cancer study from the World Health Organization. Health experts are predicting a big increase in cancer in the world’s big cities.

I’ll tell you about a group that is using vaccinations to try to keep tens of thousands of girls in eight countries from developing cervical cancer.   

And June Simms takes us to a Roman Catholic school for African-American girls in Washington, DC. In the nation’s capital, fewer than half of the children finish high school. But at this school, 90 percent do. 

The World Health Organization reports that one-third of all cancer deaths are preventable. The VOA’s Steve Ember tells us about a new study that finds cancer is still a leading cause of death worldwide.

WHO officials say more than two-thirds of the new cases and deaths take place in developing countries. And they say the number of cases is increasing at a frightening rate.  

Andreas Ullrich is a medical officer with WHO’s Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion. He says the future outlook is grim.

“With population aging, in particularly in exposure to major risk factors like tobacco, we expect that over the next 20 years that the number of new cases per year will double.”

Dr. Ullrich notes that some activities can increase your risk of cancer. Major risk factors include tobacco use, drinking alcoholic products and lack of physical activity. He says health experts are predicting a major increase in cancer in the world’s cities. 

The medical official says changing the way you live can help prevent the disease. He also says some cancers can be prevented through vaccinations. Among them he noted hepatitis B -- a cause of liver cancer -- and human papilloma virus -- a cause of cervical cancer.  

The WHO released results of a study for World Cancer Day, which was observed last week. The study found that more than half of all countries worldwide lack a complete plan for fighting cancer. Only 17 percent of the African countries in the study have control plans to prevent, identify, treat and care for cancer patients. None have a budget to support such a program.

I’m Steve Ember

The GAVI Alliance is a partnership between public health officials and private industry. The group provides vaccines to developing countries. Recently, the alliance announced plans for an immunization campaign to protect 180 thousand girls from cervical cancer. It has chosen eight countries to start administering the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV. Most cervical cancers result from HPV. The virus is passed through sex. 

Seth Berkley is chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance. He says the disease affects many women.  

“A woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer; this kills women than childbirth.” 

Dr. Berkley says an estimated 275,000 women die from this cancer each year. And 85 percent of the victims are in the developing world. He warns that, without intervention, the estimate would be 430 thousand deaths a year by 2030.

The HPV vaccine is given to girls between the ages of nine and 13. It is only effective before someone is infected with the virus. 

The HPV vaccine will be administered as part of school programs in Laos and seven African countries -- Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Dr. Berkley notes that efforts must be made to reach girls who are not in school.

A Roman Catholic school in Washington DC is making a difference for African-American girls. In their communities, more than half of all students end their education before high school. The VOA’s June Simms takes us there.

One hundred students attend this Catholic day school. They come from low-income homes. Many of the girls are raised by a single parent or grandparent.

Sister Mary Bourdon opened the school 14 years ago. Private donors pay most of the costs.  

The school is in a community where pregnancy rates among young women are high. Many girls may leave the school early. 

Sister Mary Bourdon says her plan was for the school to intervene in young lives, pointing them toward a happier adulthood.

“One of the first things is to get the teachers who can excite them about learning. They get personal individual attention.” 

Class sizes are small, giving teachers like Kelly Lockard a chance to work with students one at a time. 

“If I’m able to develop that relationship with them, and if they’re able to feel comfortable with me, that helps with the intrinsic motivation, and it helps with them just relaxing and being comfortable to be able to ask whatever questions they need to ask about math or about life.” 

She says this kind of atmosphere helps the girls develop a desire to learn.

A student named Makayla wishes there were more schools like hers.

“It provides you with a good education. It helps you be the best that you can be.” 

Ninety percent of the students at the Washington Middle School for Girls finish high school. That compares with less than 50 percent at public schools in the city. 

I’m June Simms.

And that is today’s edition of “As It Is,” our new show in VOA Special English. Every day we’ll go in-depth on the latest news events, and report on issues that concern you. We’ll talk with newsmakers, lawmakers, experts and VOA’s reporters around the globe to help you make sense of our fast-moving and ever-changing world.

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