‘Tidal wave’ of cancer cases to hit by 2035

A ‘tidal wave’ of cancer cases is expected in the next two decades unless restrictions are implemented, in particularly on alcohol and sugar.

This is the claim from World Health Organization (WHO) scientists, who estimate that the worldwide number of new cancer cases in a single year will skyrocket by 70%; from 14.1 million in 2012 to 19 million by 2025, 22 million by 2030, and then further rise to around 24 million by 2035.

The warnings were laid bare in the latest World Cancer Report released by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), who stress the “real need” to boost cancer prevention methods by tackling three lifestyle choices that often cause cancer – smoking, obesity and drinking.

Chris Wild, the director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, told the BBC: “The global cancer burden is increasing and quite markedly, due predominately to the ageing of the populations and population growth. If we look at the cost of treatment of cancers, it is spiralling out of control, even for the high-income countries. Prevention is absolutely critical and it’s been somewhat neglected.”

Less developed countries will bear the brunt of the cancer cases, with incidence rates expected to go up by 44% in the next decade, whereas more developed countries are likely to see a rise of only 20%.

Differences in rates are primarily because of the variance in quality of healthcare and preventative measures, i.e. screening programmes and vaccines for cancers developed from infections such as the human papilloma virus (HPV). The gap is expected to grow however as those in less developed countries adhere to more ‘industrialised lifestyles’; eating more processed food, drinking more alcohol and smoking more.

According to the 2014 WHO World Cancer Report, the main factors involved with preventable cancers include:

. Air pollution and other environmental factors.

. Alcohol.

. Delayed parenthood, having fewer children and not breastfeeding.

. Infections.

. Obesity and inactivity.

. Radiation, both from the sun and medical scans.

. Smoking.

Dr Bernard Stewart from the University of New South Wales in Australia, was one of the editors in the report and he says prevention has a “crucial role in combating the tidal wave of cancer which we see coming across the world”.

Dr Stewart argues it is our human behaviour which is causing a lot of cancer cases such as the sunbathe “until you’re cooked evenly on both side” attitude in his homeland.

He added it was not the IARC’s job to govern what is to be done, but he commented: “In relation to alcohol, for example, we’re all aware of the acute effects, whether its car accidents or assaults, but there’s a burden of disease that’s not talked about because it’s simply not recognised, specifically involving cancer. The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol – those things should be on the agenda.”

Dr Stewart also says sugar is one issue that also needs tackling as high sugar intake is merely adding to the obesity crisis, which is then increasing a person’s risk of cancer once obese.

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