Prevention Key as Cancer Rates Rise

Cancer rates worldwide increased, health officials stressed cancer prevention

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who didn't know anyone affected by cancer. New evidence is highlighting just how widespread the disease is — and what can be done to stop it.

A new study looked at global rates of cancer and found that rates increased over the last 20 years. But many cancers are preventable, and experts are stressing awareness and prevention in the face of this disease.

"Cancer poses a major threat to public health worldwide, and incidence rates have increased in most countries since 1990," explained the authors of this new study, led by Christina Fitzmaurice, MD, of the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration and the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Fitzmaurice and colleagues studied cancer registries and medical databases from 188 countries to estimate rates of 28 types of cancer. In 2013, there were 14.9 million new cases of cancer, Dr. Fitzmaurice and team estimated. They also estimated that cancer resulted in 8.2 million deaths and 196.3 million years of healthy life lost by patients in the same year.

Tracheal, bronchus and lung cancers were behind the most deaths in 2013 — an estimated 1.6 million. The most common type of cancer among men was prostate cancer, with 1.4 million new cases in 2013. Among women, breast cancer was most common, with 1.8 million new cases.

Overall, the rate of death from cancer increased by 3 percent — from 12 percent of all deaths in 1990 to 15 percent in 2013.

In 113 countries, rates of cancer increased by more than 10 percent between 1990 and 2013. Cancer rates dropped by more than 10 percent in only 12 of the 188 countries studied.

Despite these potentially alarming findings, health officials stress that some cancers are avoidable.

"The number of new cancer cases can be reduced, and many cancer deaths can be prevented," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which explained that screenings can identify precancerous areas and help doctors prevent the disease before it develops.

According to the CDC, "Screening for cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers also helps find these diseases at an early, often highly treatable stage."

The CDC also highlighted the role of certain vaccines — such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent cervical cancers, and the hepatitis B vaccine, which can help prevent liver cancer.

"A person's cancer risk can be reduced in other ways by receiving regular medical care, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol use, avoiding excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active," according to the CDC.

This study provided estimations based on data that was limited in certain countries, Dr. Fitzmaurice and team noted. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

This study was published online May 28 in JAMA Oncology.

A number of sources funded this research, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Various study authors had financial ties to groups like the US Department of Veterans Affairs and pharmaceutical companies Savient and Takeda.

Review Date: 
May 27, 2015
Last Updated:
May 28, 2015