WHO report predicts a 77% increase in cancer cases by 2050 

New estimates from the World Health Organization project that by 2050, global cancer diagnoses will soar to 35 million, marking a staggering 77% increase from the 20 million cases identified in 2022.

The recent report reveals a concerning trend: cancer incidence is on the rise among adults under 50, prompting medical professionals to seek explanations. 

Data released by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which covers 185 countries and 36 types of cancer, found lung cancer was the most common worldwide in 2022, accounting for 2.5 million cases, or 12.4% of the total. 

This was followed by female breast, colorectal, prostate, and stomach cancers. Lung cancer also claimed the highest number of lives, with 1.8 million deaths, nearly 19% of the total.

Disparities in cancer burdens across developed nations are also evident. In countries with a very high Human Development Index (HDI), such as those with notable achievements in health, education, and living standards, the likelihood of breast cancer diagnosis among women stands at 1 in 12, with a 1 in 71 mortality rate. 

To compare, in low-HDI countries, only 1 in 27 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, but 1 in 48 die from it. This is largely attributed to late diagnosis and limited access to treatments.

Researchers blame the surge in cancer rates on various factors, including obesity, tobacco, and alcohol use, along with environmental pollutants like air pollution.

In the United States, while the number of cancer-related deaths continues to decline, the incidence rates of certain cancer types are on the upswing, according to a recent report from the American Cancer Society.

Between 1991 and 2021, cancer fatalities in the US dropped by 33%, primarily owing to reductions in tobacco consumption, earlier detection, and advancements in treatments. 

However, the report also found that cancer diagnoses are occurring at younger ages. For instance, the proportion of colorectal cancer cases among adults under 55 rose from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019, as indicated by previous research.

In a news release, the director of WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases said: “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. 

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.”

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