Abstract

Despite decreases in the cancer death rates in high-resource countries, such as the USA, the number of cancer cases and deaths is projected to more than double worldwide over the next 20–40 years. Cancer is now the third leading cause of death, with >12 million new cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths estimated to have occurred globally in 2007 ( 1 ). By 2030, it is projected that there will be ∼26 million new cancer cases and 17 million cancer deaths per year. The projected increase will be driven largely by growth and aging of populations and will be largest in low- and medium-resource countries. Under current trends, increased longevity in developing countries will nearly triple the number of people who survive to age 65 by 2050. This demographic shift is compounded by the entrenchment of modifiable risk factors such as smoking and obesity in many low-and medium-resource countries and by the slower decline in cancers related to chronic infections (especially stomach, liver and uterine cervix) in economically developing than in industrialized countries. This paper identifies several preventive measures that offer the most feasible approach to mitigate the anticipated global increase in cancer in countries that can least afford it. Foremost among these are the need to strengthen efforts in international tobacco control and to increase the availability of vaccines against hepatitis B and human papilloma virus in countries where they are most needed.

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