In 2050, Brazil is expected to register 1.15 million new cases of cancer and, in that same year, the estimate is that the disease will cause 554 thousand deaths in the country, an increase of 98.6% in relation to deaths occurring in 2022 Worldwide, there will be 35.3 million cases and 18.5 million lives lost, an increase of 89.7% compared to 2022, according to Iarc (International Agency for Research on Cancer).
The forecasts were released this Thursday (1st) by the WHO agency (World Health Organization) in association with a survey on the financing of oncology services and palliative care. Just like the estimate, the survey shows that there are more challenges than news to celebrate on World Cancer Day, on February 4th.
According to IARC, in 2022, around 9.7 million deaths worldwide were related to cancer. Currently, 1 in 5 people develop the disease during their lifetime and approximately 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women die from cancer. However, only 39% of the 115 countries participating in the study have cancer treatment as part of the health services offered to all citizens, and only 28% cover palliative care.
“Despite progress in early detection of cancer and treatment and care of patients, there are significant disparities in treatment outcomes not only between high- and low-income regions of the world, but also within countries,” says Cary Adams, head of the UICC (International Union for Cancer Control).
Adams and four other spokespeople who participated in the data presentation were emphatic about global differences and the urgent need for more investment in cancer prevention and control. For them, it is necessary to mobilize all spheres to make treatments accessible. “Our ambition is to unite society, to resolve issues together,” he says.
Rich vs poor
Experts highlighted that many countries still do not provide quality data on cancer and that it is the nations with the most resources that are generally able to provide information about the disease. This impacts, among other things, on understanding the real effect of the coronavirus pandemic in the area of oncology.
“We now need to look for data from low-income countries to get the real dimension of Covid’s impact”, says Isabelle Soerjomataram, an epidemiologist at Iarc.
In general, countries with a high HDI (human development index) are expected to see a greater absolute increase in cancer incidence, with around 4.8 million new cases predicted for 2050 compared to estimates for 2022. However, increases proportional values will be more marked in countries with low and medium HDI, respectively 142% and 99%.
In Canada, for example, the incidence is expected to increase from 292 thousand cases in 2022 to 469 thousand in 2050, an increase of 60.7%. In Honduras, in the same period, the jump will be 127.9% — from 10.8 thousand new registrations to 24.7 thousand.
According to IARC, in countries with a high HDI, 1 in 12 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and 1 in 71 will die from the disease. In contrast, in countries with a low HDI, 1 in 27 receives the diagnosis and 1 in 48 dies.
“Women in countries with a low HDI have a much higher risk of dying from the disease due to late diagnosis and inadequate access to quality treatment,” says Soerjomataram.
According to Andre Ilbawi, a cancer specialist at the WHO, low-income countries often do not offer cheaper alternatives to combat cancer, such as prevention with the HPV vaccine. “Cancer doesn’t have to be expensive or a death sentence,” he says.