World, Health

WHO warns global cancer burden growing, with 77% spike in cases expected by 2050

There were estimated 20M new cancer cases, 9.7M deaths in 2022, says UN agency's latest report

Beyza Binnur Dönmez  | 01.02.2024 - Update : 02.02.2024
WHO warns global cancer burden growing, with 77% spike in cases expected by 2050


The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday warned that the global cancer burden is growing and that the UN agency expects a 77% spike in cancer cases by 2050. 

Ahead of World Cancer Day, the WHO and its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released the latest estimates on cancer cases and data about how much states finance cancer and palliative care services.

In 2022, there were an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths, according to IARC estimates given in a statement. The estimated number of people who were alive within five years following a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million.

It showed that about one in five people develop cancer in their lifetime and that one in nine men and one in 12 women die from the disease.

The three major cancer types in 2022 were lung, breast, and colorectal cancers, the study showed. It added that lung cancer is the most common worldwide, with 2.5 million new cases.

It is followed by female breast cancer with 2.3 million cases and colorectal cancer with 1.9 million cases.

IARC's estimates covered 185 countries and 36 cancers, according to the statement.

WHO's survey of 115 countries showed that only 39% of participating countries covered the basics of cancer management as part of their financed core health services for all citizens.

"WHO’s new global survey sheds light on major inequalities and lack of financial protection for cancer around the world, with populations, especially in lower-income countries, unable to access the basics of cancer care," said Bente Mikkelsen, director of the department of noncommunicable diseases at WHO.

Mikkelsen added: "WHO, including through its cancer initiatives, is working intensively with more than 75 governments to develop, finance and implement policies to promote cancer care for all. To expand on this work, major investments are urgently needed to address global inequities in cancer outcomes."

- 35M more cancer cases predicted in 2050

More than 35 million new cancer cases are predicted in 2050, representing a 77% rise from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022, IARC estimates showed.

It stressed that the rapidly growing global cancer burden reflects both "population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors."

"The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries of different (Human Development Index) HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden," said Freddie Bray, the IARC cancer surveillance head.

Dr. Cary Adams, head of the Union for International Cancer Control, also said in the WHO press release that despite the progress made in the early detection of cancers and treatment, "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," he urged.

Describing the problem as not only about resource but also about political will, Adams said: "Tools exist to enable governments to prioritise cancer care, and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services."

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