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20,000 New Cancer Cases A Day Worldwide

January 2008 - A report from the American Cancer Society estimates that 2007 saw over 12 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths (about 20,000 a day) worldwide. Of these, 5.4 million cases and 2.9 million deaths occurred in economically developed countries, compared to 6.7 million cases and 4.7 million deaths in developing economies.

Projections in the first Global Cancer Facts & Figures were based on incidence and mortality data from the Globocan 2002 database compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Researchers explain that in developed countries, the three most commonly diagnosed cancers are prostate, lung, and colorectal in men and breast, colorectal, and lung in women. In economically developing countries cancers of the lung, stomach, and liver are the most common in men, and of the breast, cervix uteri, and stomach in women. In both types of economies, the three most common cancers are also the three leading causes of cancer death.

Approximately 15 per cent of all cancers are infection-related, with the percentage about three times higher in developing countries (26 per cent compared to 8 per cent in developed countries). In developing countries two of the three most common cancers (stomach and liver in men; cervix and stomach in women) are related to infection.

Co-author Dr Ahmedin Jemal, American Cancer Society epidemiologist said:

"The burden of cancer is increasing in developing countries as deaths from infectious diseases and childhood mortality decline and more people live to older ages when cancer most frequently occurs. This cancer burden is also increasing as people in the developing countries adopt western lifestyles such as cigarette smoking, higher consumption of saturated fat and calorie-dense foods, and reduced physical activity."

The IARC estimates that in 2002 there were approximately 24.6 million people worldwide diagnosed with cancer in the preceding five years. Survival rates for many cancers are poorer in economically developing countries primarily because of lack of availability of early detection and treatment services. For example, overall five-year childhood cancer survival rates are around 75 per cent in Europe and North America, compared to three-year survival rates of 48 to 62 per cent in Central America.

The new report places particular emphasis on the increasing impact of tobacco, estimating that five million deaths occurred worldwide as a result of tobacco use in 2000, of which about 30 per cent (1.42 million) were from cancer, with 850 000 deaths from lung cancer alone. Overall, tobacco was responsible for about 100 million deaths during the 20th century, and is projected to kill more than one billion people in the 21st, the great majority in developing countries.

The World Health Organization has estimated that about 84 per cent of the approximately 1.3 billion smokers in the world live in countries with a developing or transitional economy. In China alone, there are 350 million smokers, exceeding the total population of the U.S. The report cautions that if current smoking prevalence patterns continue, there will be two billion smokers worldwide by the year 2030, half of whom will die of smoking-related diseases if they do not stop. The report identifies "halting the rapid diffusion of tobacco consumption to developing countries" as an urgent global health priority.

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