Cancer Diagnoses Highest in US, Europe

Cancer diagnoses in US and Europe are among the highest in the world.
Cancer diagnoses are highest in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Canada, Uruguay, New Zealand and South Korea according to the World Health Organization’s World Cancer Report 2014. Out of every 100,000 people, an average of at least 242.9 were diagnosed with cancer in all seven areas. The World Health Organization had six different categories for cancer diagnoses worldwide, and 242.9+ was the highest category created.

Deaths from the disease were not correspondingly high overall. Russia and China were among the countries that had the leading number of cancer deaths, at 116 or more per 100,000 people.

Some of the European countries with the highest detection rates also had high death rates, as did Uruguay, but the United States and Canada fell to the second highest category for cancer deaths with 99.6-116 per 100,000 people. New Zealand and South Korea also fell into the second highest category for deaths. The death toll in Australia averaged 89.7-99.6, per 100,000 people, putting the country in the middle of the categories for worldwide cancer deaths.

While treatment appears to be working in countries where the number of deaths are lower than diagnoses, shouldering the cost of treatment is increasingly burdensome as the number of people diagnosed with cancer continues to climb. The World Health Organization stresses that prevention is critical, and that many types of cancer can be avoided with awareness, education and lifestyle changes.

Smoking, alcohol, obesity and inactivity, radiation from both the sun and medical procedures, infections, air pollution and environmental factors and delayed parenthood are the major preventable causes of cancer listed by the WHO. Of these, 30 percent of cancer deaths are associated with diet and inactivity, specifically, high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, inactivity, tobacco use and alcohol use.

One of the editors of the report said that alcohol consumption especially needed to be addressed, and that limiting promotion and distribution was highly advisable. Reducing sugar was also mentioned as necessary to curb obesity. Tobacco use and obesity are higher in the United States than the regional average, and are areas to target for cancer prevention.

The report marks the annual World Cancer Day and focuses on the global impact of cancer. This year’s theme is “Debunk the Myths,” and the International Agency on Research for Cancer is sponsoring a lecture by Professor Sir Michael G. Marmot titled, “Fair Society, Healthy Lives.”

The imbalance of cancer detection and deaths amongst countries is indicative of global inequalities. While Africa, Asia, and Central and South America account for 60 percent of new cases, they also account for 70 percent of deaths.

Developing countries are also predicted to see a surge in cases of cancer in the coming years, largely due to swelling and aging populations. Currently, 14 million people are diagnosed annually with cancer, and the number diagnosed in developing countries is only slightly higher than in developed. Over the next 20 years, however, it is predicted that the number of cancer diagnoses in developing countries will surge, accounting for the majority of the increase to an estimated 24 million cases by 2035. The number of cases in developed countries is predicted to remain roughly the same.

While cancer diagnoses may currently be highest in the US and Europe amongst others, that is predicted to change, accounting for a global imbalance in healthcare education and access. The majority of cases are preventable, however, if lifestyle habits are changed.

By Julia Waterhous

World Health Organization
International Agency for Research on Cancer

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