The World Health Organization’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), issued a stark warning today: new cancer diagnoses are projected to skyrocket by 77% by 2050, reaching over 35 million cases annually. This alarming increase is attributed to a combination of lifestyle and environmental factors, with tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and air pollution identified as the key culprits.
WHO 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 global cancer burden is projected to surge by 77% to over 35 million new cases in 2050, stemming from population growth, aging, and changing risk factors associated with socioeconomic development. Tobacco, alcohol, and obesity play pivotal roles alongside persistent air pollution. High Human Development Index (HDI) countries anticipate the greatest absolute increase (4.8 million cases), while low HDI nations face a striking 142% rise and medium HDI countries a 99% increase in cancer incidence by 2050. Cancer mortality in low- and medium-HDI countries is expected to nearly double. Urgent global efforts are imperative to address this escalating crisis.
“The impact of this increase will not be felt evenly across countries with different HDI levels. Those who have the fewest resources to manage their cancer burdens will bear the brunt of the global cancer burden,” says Dr Freddie Bray, Head of the Cancer Surveillance Branch at IARC.
“Despite the progress that has been made in the early detection of cancers and the treatment and care 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. Where someone lives should not determine whether they live. Tools exist to enable governments to prioritise cancer care and ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality services. This is not just a resource issue but a matter of political will,” says Dr Cary Adams, head of the UICC (Union for International Cancer Control).