February 4th is World Cancer Day, and to help raise awareness and help cancer patients, IMED Hospitales wants to help spread that there are solutions across the continuum of cancer, and that they are within our reach.

This year, World Cancer Day campaign explores how we can implement what we already know in the areas of prevention, early detection, treatment and care, and in turn, open up to the exciting prospect that we can impact the global cancer burden – for the better.

Key facts about cancer

World cancer day 2015

  • Cancers figure among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer related deaths in 2012.
  • The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.
  • Among men, the 5 most common sites of cancer diagnosed in 2012 were lung, prostate, colorectum, stomach, and liver cancer.
  • Among women the 5 most common sites diagnosed were breast, colorectum, lung, cervix, and stomach cancer.
  • Around one third of cancer deaths are due to the 5 leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use.
  • Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer causing around 20% of global cancer deaths and around 70% of global lung cancer deaths.
  • Cancer causing viral infections such as HBV/HCV and HPV are responsible for up to 20% of cancer deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
  • More than 60% of world’s total new annual cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These regions account for 70% of the world’s cancer deaths.
  • It is expected that annual cancer cases will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 within the next 2 decades.

Which are the most common causes of cancer death?

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases that can affect any part of the body. One defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade adjoining parts of the body and spread to other organs, the latter process is referred to as metastasizing. Metastases are the major cause of death from cancer.

In 2012, cancer was the cause of 8.2 million deaths:

  • lung (1.59 million deaths)
  • liver (745 000 deaths)
  • stomach (723 000 deaths)
  • colorectal (694 000 deaths)
  • breast (521 000 deaths)
  • oesophageal cancer (400 000 deaths)

Which risk factors take part in cancer?

The beginning of cancer is due to:

  • person’s genetic factors.
  • physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation.
  • chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant).
  • biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites.

The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age. The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older.

Tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are the main cancer risk factors worldwide. Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer and have major relevance in low- and middle-income countries.

Hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancer such as cervical cancer.

How can I reduce the risk factors?

More than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including:

  • tobacco use
  • being overweight or obese
  • unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake
  • lack of physical activity
  • alcohol use
  • sexually transmitted HPV-infection
  • infection by HBV
  • ionizing and non-ionizing radiation
  • urban air pollution
  • indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.

Prevention strategies:

  • Increase avoidance of the risk factors listed above.
  • Vaccinate against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV).
  • Control occupational hazards.
  • Reduce exposure to non-ionizing radiation by sunlight. (UV)
  • Reduce exposure to ionizing radiation (occupational or medical diagnostic imaging).

How can I help in the fight against cancer?

World Cancer Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness that there is much that can be done at an individual, community and governmental level, to harness and mobilise these solutions and catalyse positive change.

World Cancer Day is a truly global event. In order to achieve the objective of reaching as much of the world’s population as possible, there are more than 600 events, activities and actions worldwide about this world cancer day. Everyone is encouraged to share them!