Global rates of cancer are set to increase more than 75% by 2030, according to a newly released study.
The largest rise is predicted to be in the developing world, with increases of over 90% in some countries. This is expected to be largely from dietary and environmental changes occurring there as they transition to a more ‘western/modern’ lifestyle.
This is the first study to examine how current and future levels of cancer incidence and death vary between countries with different levels of development, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI).
There is a slight drop in some types of cancer as countries transition to ‘higher’ levels of development, stomach and cervical cancers mostly. But it is easily offset by the vast increase in the quantity of other cancers caused by the industrialized lifestyle.
“Cancer is already the leading cause of death in many high-income countries and is set to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the next decades in every region of the world; this study serves as an important reference point in drawing attention to the need for global action to reduce the increasing burden of cancer,” states Dr Freddie Bray, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and lead author of the study.
The study was done by using data from GLOBOCAN, a database comprising of cancer incidence and mortality in 2008 in 184 different countries world-wide. The patterns show that the most common types of cancer vary with the four levels of human development in the HDI. The researchers then used population and aging estimates; along with the changing trends of incident rates of the six most common cancer types in countries with medium, high, and very high levels of HDI; to project the changes by 2030.
Countries with a low HDI (mostly countries in sub-Saharan Africa) currently experience a higher rate of cancers caused by infection, such as cervical cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. While countries with a higher level of HDI (such as the UK, Australia, Russia, and Brazil) have much higher incidences of cancers associated with diet, smoking, obesity, and reproductive risk factors.
With the ‘rise in living standards’ in the coming decades in low-HDI countries, the researchers predict a significant rise in overall cancer rates. With medium-HDI countries such as India, China, and South Africa experiencing increases of around 78%, and low-HDI countries undergoing rises of over 93% by 2030.
Some of the other findings of the study are that prostate and breast cancers rates appear to be rising world-wide even in countries with high and very-high HDI. Stomach and cervical cancers have mostly been decreasing worldwide, although there are exceptions. In countries with high and very-high HDI, lung cancer rates have been decreasing in men and increasing in women, and these have been rising in low-HDI countries. In 2008, almost 40% of the incident cases occurred in very-high HDI countries even though they only contain 15% of the worlds population.
Dr Christopher Wild, IARC Director, said: “This study reveals the dynamic nature of cancer patterns in a given region of the world over time. Countries must take account of the specific challenges they will face and prioritise targeted interventions to combat the projected increases in cancer burden via effective primary prevention strategies, early detection, and effective treatment programmes.”