To mark World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization says global action to prevent and control cancer can save eight million lives over the next 10 years. The U.N. health agency says cancer, which is a leading cause of death around the world, can be significantly reduced if people stopped smoking and ate better.
The World Health Organization reports an estimated 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2005. It warns 84 million people will die in the next 10 years if action is not taken.
WHO Spokesman Ian Simpson says cancer is not an automatic death sentence. He says a lot can be done to cut the number of cancer deaths around the world.
"The simplest thing anyone can do to avoid cancer is not to smoke or to stop smoking if they do," Simpson said. "Tobacco is the single largest cause of cancer. But, it is not the only one, diet is a major contributor to cancer. Environment is a major contributor to cancer and there also are infectious diseases that cause cancer. Many, many things can be done by individuals, communities and governments to bring down the risk of cancer and to save lives."
The World Health Organization says tobacco use alone accounts for some 1.5 million cancer deaths a year. It says dramatic increases in risk factors such as tobacco use and obesity are contributing to the rise in cancer rates, particularly in low and middle-income countries.
It notes more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in the world's poorer countries.
Simpson says cancer never has been a disease of the rich world alone and increasingly is becoming a disease of the developing world. He says one of the main reasons is that smoking, poor diet and obesity are just as prevalent in poor countries as they are in rich ones.
"And, the other is that poor countries simply do not have the same level of medical facilities to deal with cancer," he said. "So, if you have cancer in a rich country, your cancer is diagnosed, then there are many forms of treatment that you can receive. If you have cancer in a poor country, it is likely that it will be diagnosed later and if it is diagnosed, the chances of you getting good treatment are less simply because of lack of resources. Cancer treatment in the main is expensive. It is complicated. It is technical and it relies on the type of equipment that does not exist in many countries and certainly not in many places in poorer countries."
The World Health Organization estimates over 40 percent of all cancer can be prevented, largely by a change in lifestyle. It says urbanization is leading to rising consumption of processed foods high in fats, sugars and salt, as well as tobacco products. It says more people are becoming sedentary.
It says it is simple and cheap to prevent many cancers. What people need to do is stop smoking, eat better and take a walk.