Breast cancer overtakes lung cancer as world’s commonest

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer. Courtesy Photo

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the world’s most commonly diagnosed cancer, the World Health Organization [WHO] has revealed in a new statement released in the lead to World Cancer Day marked Thursday 4, January 2021 globally.

Breast cancer among women accounted for 11.7 per cent of the estimated 19.3 million new cancer cases in 2020 and about 25 per cent of all cancer cases among women. Lung cancer accounted for 11.4 per cent of new cases. This is according to the latest data collected by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer-IARC, in December.

In the past two decades, the overall number of people diagnosed with cancer nearly doubled, from an estimated 10 million in 2000 to  19.3 million in 2020. Today, one in 5 people worldwide will develop cancer during their lifetime. Projections suggest that the number of people being diagnosed with cancer will increase still further in the coming years, and will be nearly 50 per cent higher in 2040 than in 2020. 

The number of deaths from cancer has also increased, from 6.2 million in 2000 to 10 million in 2020. More than one out of every six deaths is due to cancer. 

While changes in lifestyle, such as unhealthy diets, insufficient physical activity, use of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol, have all contributed to the increasing cancer burden, experts say a significant proportion can also be attributed to increasing longevity, as the risk of developing cancer increases with age.

Because of this, the WHO urges countries to invest in both cancer prevention and cancer control, focusing on actionable cancers like breast, cervical and childhood cancers. The organization has also embarked on a series of consultations in order to establish a new global breast cancer initiative, which will launch later in 2021. 

This collaborative effort between WHO, IARC, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other multi-sectoral partners, will reduce deaths from breast cancer by promoting breast health, improving timely cancer detection and ensuring access to quality care, they say.

Read Also: Only 30% of cancer in children diagnosed in Uganda – UCI

“World Cancer Day, with its slogan “I can and I will”, is also an opportunity to show the WHO’s commitment to other major global cancer programmes, on cervical cancer and childhood cancer.

The adoption of the Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem and its associated goals and targets by the World Health Assembly in 2020 has provided added momentum to cervical cancer efforts”, the statement reads in part.

Three targets have been set for 2030 for 90 per cent of girls to be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, 70 per cent of women to have been screened and 90 per cent of women identified with cervical cancer to be receiving treatment.