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The fourth of February 2020 was observed as the twentieth World Cancer day and the World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined some steps to prevent this dreaded condition.

From the WHO and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

The WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released two reports on current status of cancer and prevention strategies on that day.

World Health Organization - Report on Cancer: Setting priorities, investing wisely and providing care for all

International Agency for Research on Cancer - World Cancer Report “Cancer research for cancer prevention”

The WHO guidelines also state that cancer services in the low and middle income countries need to be accelerated and stepped up in order to meet the growing demands of cancer care across the world. The statistics reveal that over the next two decades there would be a 60 percent rise in number of cancer cases if the current trends do not change for the better. The numbers also state that there would be an 81 percent rise in the new cases from the low and middle income countries and in these nations there would be lowest survival. Poor and inadequate health resources are to be blamed says the health organization. The WHO added that most of the country’s resources are being spent on controlling infectious diseases and preventing maternal and infant deaths at present. More needs to be focussed on cancer detection and treatment to bring down the numbers. Comparing the numbers between high and low/middle income countries, the WHO reports that over 90 percent of the former have comprehensive cancer care while less than 15 percent can provide same care in the latter.

According to Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage/ Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization, “This is a wake-up call to all of us to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries. If people have access to primary care and referral systems then cancer can be detected early, treated effectively and cured. Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO said in a statement, “At least 7 million lives could be saved over the next decade, by identifying the most appropriate science for each country situation, by basing strong cancer responses on universal health coverage, and by mobilizing different stakeholders to work together.”

The WHO guidelines warn about preventable causes of cancers such as tobacco use, hepatitis B and C and HPV infections as well as other infections that can raise risk of cancers. The report says the vaccinating and adequate treatment as well as screening could help prevent these cancers.

Dr Elisabete Weiderpass, Director of IARC said in a statement, “The past 50 years have seen tremendous advances in research on cancer prevention and treatment, deaths from cancer have been reduced. High-income countries have adopted prevention, early diagnosis and screening programmes, which together with better treatment, have contributed to an estimated 20% reduction in the probability of premature mortality between 2000 and 2015, but low-income countries only saw a reduction of 5%.

We need to see everyone benefitting equally.” She added, “Each government is tasked with choosing the appropriate innovative cancer therapies while recognizing that established treatments, many of which are very effective and affordable, can provide benefits for cancer without causing financial hardship.”

From the American Cancer Society

According to the American Cancer Society, there has been a decline in the number of deaths due to cancer in the United States. The organization reports that the decline in the deaths due to cancer was 29 percent between 1991 and 2017 translating into 2.9 millions saved lives.

The ACS says that the cancers that have been prevented include lung cancers, colorectal cancers, breast and prostate cancers. These could be due to adequate screening, detection and comprehensive treatment of these cancers, says the organization.

From the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) released a survey report on perceptions of the public regarding cancer among the general public on the 4th of this month to observe Cancer Day.

This survey by the Ipsos involved over 15,000 people from 20 different countries between 25th October and 25th November 2019. Results of the survey revealed that cancer still remains a menace for populations of low socioeconomic status and low educational status. For those of the lower socioeconomic status the changes in lifestyle to prevent cancer were still rare, the survey noted. They noted that 87 percent knew about the risk factors for cancer and of these tobacco, sun light’s UV exposure and second-hand tobacco smoke were the common risk factors cited by over half the participants. Only one third knew about the risk of obesity, lack of exercise and viruses in causing cancers.

Cary Adams, MBA, chief executive officer of the UICC, in a statement said, “It is unacceptable that millions of people have a greater chance of developing cancer in their lifetime because they are simply not aware of the cancer risks to avoid and the healthy behaviors to adopt ― information that many of us take for granted. And this is true around the world.”

Sonali Johnson, head of knowledge, advocacy, and policy at the UICC, in Geneva, Switzerland said in a statement, “Much more must be done to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to reduce their risk of preventable cancer”. She added, “We've seen in the results that those surveyed with a lower education and those on lower incomes appear less aware of the main risk factors associated with cancer and thus are less likely to proactively take the steps needed to reduce their cancer risk as compared to those from a high income household or those with a university education.”

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