The report predicts a 77% increase in global cancer cases by 2050.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest report on the global cancer burden.1 The report details the current situation and includes estimates for the coming decades. According to this report, the global cancer burden is expected to increase by 77% by the year 2050.
If this estimate is accurate, this means that there would be over 35 million new cancer cases in that year. The WHO credits multiple factors for this increase, including estimated population growth and the average age of the population during that period.
Naturally, exposure to risk factors plays a significant role in the growing number of cases. Tobacco and alcohol are both common risk factors, with obesity also being a key concern. A growing risk factor is exposure to air pollution, which is labeled as a key driver of environmental risk factors.
Not surprisingly, a country or region’s human development index (HDI) plays a significant role in this as well.
In the WHO’s press release, the IARC’s head of cancer surveillance branch Dr. Freddie Bray said, “The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries of different HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden.”
According to the report, there were about 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths from cancer in 2022. About 53.5 million patients had received a cancer diagnosis within the past 5 years and were still alive.
Patients suffering from cancer were more likely to survive it if they lived in a country or region with a high HDI.
The report also notes that people that there were fewer cancer cases in countries or regions with a low HDI. This is most likely due to less access to healthcare and screenings, as opposed to lower occurrences of the disease. Despite the lower rate of diagnosis, the rate of death was still higher among the total population.
“Despite the progress that has been made in the early detection of cancers and the treatment and care of cancer patients–significant disparities in cancer treatment outcomes exist not only between high and low income regions of the world, but also within countries. Where someone lives should not determine whether they live. Tools exist to enable governments to prioritize cancer care, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services. This is not just a resource issue but a matter of political will,” Dr Cary Adams, head of UICC - Union for International Cancer Control, said in the press release.
The report also notes that 10 different kinds of cancer made up for about two-thirds of new cases and deaths across the entire planet. These cancers include lung cancer, female breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. Lung cancer is the leading killer among cancers, with colorectal cancer coming in second.
Global cancer burden growing, amidst mounting need for services. World Health Organization. February 1, 2024. Accessed February 6, 2024. https://www.iarc.who.int/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/pr345_E.pdf