Each year on February 4, the world unites to raise awareness about cancer prevalence and prevention under a global initiative spearheaded by the Union for International Cancer Control. Patients, activists, and associations from around the world come together to promote dialogue about how to enhance cancer detection and treatment. Once again, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is joining forces with other cancer organizations in support of the global fight against cancer.
Cancer knows no borders. In 2018, one out of six people worldwide died from cancer. It is the second-leading cause of death and represents a global annual economic impact of $1.16 trillion. But experts say at least one-third of common cancers are preventable. In fact, up to 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing resource-appropriate strategies for prevention, early detection, and treatment.
The fight against tobacco use in the U.S. exemplifies this. After the U.S. cancer death rate peaked in 1991 at 215 per 100,000 people, it declined quickly and dramatically to 159 per 100,000 people in 2015, a 26 percent drop. Experts attribute this mostly to a sharp reduction in the smoking rate due to increased awareness about the link between smoking and cancer. But the story is different on the global stage. Although tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer, smoking remains prevalent in many developing countries. In fact, it accounts for at least 22 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide.
Cancer rates vary dramatically across borders. For example, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer between 2010 and 2014 was 90 percent in the U.S. and Australia, but 65 percent in Malaysia. Such inequities are mostly due to a lack of resources for cancer detection and treatment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In fact, only 5 percent of global resources for cancer prevention and control are spent in these countries. As a result, approximately 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in the least developed parts of the world.
But effectively reducing cancer deaths needn’t be expensive. Education is often the most effective tool in raising awareness about and fighting the disease. Consider the following:
Experts project that, due to the growth and aging of the global population, 27.5 million new cancer cases will be detected in 2040, and 16.3 million people will die from the disease. But those numbers are not etched in stone. Early detection and more equitable distribution of resources could curb rising cancer rates.
Strategic collaborations among organizations, governments, businesses, health systems, and research and academic centers can help expand awareness, encourage early detection, finance treatment, address inequities, and deliver comprehensive solutions. Combining efforts has the most potential to convert ideas into action at every level.
Together we are stronger.
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