Africa: World Cancer Day 2024 – WHO Releases Frightening Statistics

In Nigeria, the First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu, has advocated increased awareness campaigns against cancer.

As nations globally mark this year’s World Cancer Day, the global health body – the World Health Organisation (WHO) – has released troubling statistics about the disease.

WHO, in a statement, said the number of new cancer cases globally will reach 35 million by 2050, 77 per cent higher than the figure in 2022, noting that there were an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths in 2022.

The new disease estimates, WHO said, were based on a survey conducted by its cancer arm – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – linking the development to certain factors.

“The rapidly growing global cancer burden reflects both population ageing and growth, as well as changes to people’s exposure to risk factors, several of which are associated with socioeconomic development. Tobacco, alcohol, and obesity are key factors behind the increasing incidence of cancer, with air pollution still a key driver of environmental risk factors,” the research findings show.

WHO said it also published survey results from 115 countries, showing a majority of countries do not adequately finance priority cancer and palliative care services, as part of universal health coverage (UHC).

“The estimated number of people who were alive within five years following a cancer diagnosis was 53.5 million. About one in five people develop cancer in their lifetime, approximately one in nine men and one in 12 women die from the diseases, ” it noted.

Statistics

The IARC’s global cancer observatory covering 185 countries and 36 types of cancer, shows that 10 types of cancer accounted for about two-thirds of new cases and deaths globally in 2022.

According to the data, lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, accounting for 12.4 per cent of new cases and 18.7 per cent of deaths, followed by female breast cancer accounting for 11.6 per cent of cases and seven per cent of deaths.

Other major causes of death according to the research include bowel liver and stomach cancer.

Despite being entirely preventable, cervical cancer is the eighth most common cancer globally and the ninth biggest cause of cancer death, accounting for 661,044 new cases and 348,186 deaths. “It is the most common cancer in women in 25 countries, many of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.”

“WHO’s new global survey shed light on major inequalities and lack of financial protection for cancer around the world, with population, especially in lower-income countries, unable to access the basics of cancer care, ” the WHO’s Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Disease, Bente Mikkelson, was quoted to have said.

Burden

IARC revealed that there are disparities in the cancer burden according to human advancements.

It noted that countries with a high Human Development Index (HDI) are at lower risk of being diagnosed with cancer while countries with a low HDI are at higher risk and they are at much higher risk of dying of the disease.

WHO’s global survey indicated a significant global disparity in cancer services.

It stated that “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.”

Also, the head of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Cary Adams, observed that despite the progress that has been made in the early detection of cancers and the treatment of cancer patients, “significant disparities in cancer treatment outcomes exist not only between high and low-income regions of the world but also within countries.”

Way forward

This year, the theme for the annual global anniversary of World Cancer Day, which is marked every 4th of February, is: “Close the Care Gap: Everyone Deserves Access to Cancer Care.” It is a part of a three-year-long campaign that commenced in 2022 and now to end in 2024.

Towards achieving the campaign’s objective, WHO said it is working round the clock in partnership with governmental and non-governmental institutions, particularly to tackle the inequalities surrounding access to care.

The global body said: “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 inequalities in cancer outcomes.”

Across the globe, different individuals and organisations are also mobilising resources for the care of cancer patients, while awareness campaigns for regular tests and observations are carried out.

In Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation- Project PINK BLUE, and its partners, will on Monday host a symposium to mark the annual event.

The symposium, which is themed; “Economy, Tax & Cancer Control: The Exit of Pharmaceutical Companies from Nigeria,” according to the organisers, will feature government and policymakers from the federal ministries of finance, health, national planning, budget, and labour, among others.

In a message shared with PREMIUM TIMES, the organisation’s Executive Director, Runcie Chidebe, rued the exit of multinational pharmaceutical companies from Nigeria, saying the cancer patients in Africa’s most populous country are the most hit by the challenge.

Mr Chidebe said the exit from Nigeria by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Nigeria Plc, “the producer of cancer drugs such as Zejula and other general medicines including amoxil and augmentin, will have a damaging effect on cancer patients in the country.

He said: “While the exit of these companies is affecting Nigeria’s economy, Nigerian cancer patients are some of the worst unheard hits. Today, many of the cancer drugs produced by these pharmaceutical companies have increased by over 200 per cent. There is reduced access to essential oncology medicines, shortages of cancer drugs, delays in treatment, price hikes and absence of access programmes, quality concerns, and loss of jobs in the country (Adamgbo, 2023).”

At the programme on Monday, the Publisher of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, is expected to moderate a panel session on the theme of the symposium.

Nigeria’s first lady speaks

In a statement shared with the media on Sunday, Nigeria’s First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu, advocated the need to heighten awareness campaigns against the spread of the dangerous disease, saying the message should be targeted at prevention, early detection, and treatment.

Mrs Tinubu said: “The theme for this year, “Closing the Care Gap,” speaks to the fact that we are to deepen our efforts in putting in place the necessary infrastructure to address these health challenges towards better care for cancer patients and survivors.

“No one should have to face the challenges of cancer alone. Let us continue to show empathy, care, love, and support for cancer patients and survivors, even as we create more awareness and advocacy for better service delivery.”

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