Global health experts said cancer will become the leading cause of death in the world by 2010, overtaking heart disease.

A World Health Organization report issued Tuesday said one factor behind cancer's growing deadliness is rising cigarette smoking in developing countries. 40 percent of the world's smokers are thought to live in China and India alone.

The WHO report said an estimated 12 million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year. It predicts that 7.6 million of them will die.

Health experts predicted the number of people who die from cancer will soon be greater than deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The WHO said the number of new cancer patients may rise to 27 million a year by 2030, with 17 million people dying from the disease.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.