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First Global Cancer Figures Released

The first estimate of cancer deaths worldwide concludes that 2007 will close with 7.6 million deaths as a result of the disease. According to the report called "Global Cancer Facts and Figures," 12 million new cancer cases will have been diagnosed by year's end. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

"Global Facts and Figures" is published by the American Cancer Society, which analyzed data gathered by the society and government agencies around the world.

Of the 12 million new cases of cancer, the report estimates that the final tally will show nearly seven million newly diagnosed cancer cases and 4.7 million deaths occurred in economically developing countries.

In men, the most commonly diagnosed cancers in developing countries are of the lung, stomach and liver, while the most common in women are breast, cervical and stomach cancers.

American Cancer Society chief medical officer Otis Brawley says cancer rates are going up in the developing world as infectious diseases are being successfully treated and life span is increasing.

"There is increased life expectancy in these developing countries and cancer, of course, being a disease of older people, we are starting to see it more," he said.

Dr. Brawley adds cancer rates are rising in countries where economies are improving and people are eating Western diets that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Dr. Brawley says that in southeast Asia, lung and liver cancer predominate. In China, he says there are increasing rates of colon and prostate cancer. And in Africa, Dr. Brawley says doctors are seeing more cases of Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer that is linked to HIV and AIDS, and lung cancer associated with smoking.

Dr. Brawley says many of the cancers are preventable, such as lung and oral cancers caused by tobacco.

A special section of the report addresses tobacco, saying it has been responsible for about 100 million deaths in the 20th century and could kill more than one billion people in this century, many of them in the developing world.

Dr. Brawley says more aggressive anti-tobacco campaigns, which have been successful in the United States, could reduce cancer rates in the developing world.

The report notes that infection is responsible for approximately 15 percent of all cancers in the developing world.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) has been linked to cervical cancer, the h. pylori bacterium can lead to stomach cancer and hepatitis is a risk factor for liver cancer.

Dr. Brawley says there are opportunities to act:

" the HPV vaccine, where we can easily prevent [cervical] cancer, and then start looking at hepatitis vaccination and trying to prevent some liver cancers," he explained. "Those are the things we can positively affect in the shortest amount of time."

Experts say survival rates from cancer in the developing world could also be improved through screening and early detection, when cancer treatment is most likely to succeed. Currently, survival rates are lower in the developing world than in the West.