The UN health agency on Tuesday warned cancer cases would rise by 81 percent in low- and middle-income countries by 2040 due to a scarcity of investment in prevention and care.
The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said during a report that these countries had focused their limited resources on combating infectious diseases and improving maternal and child health rather than fighting cancer.
It said they often had the very best cancer mortality too.
“This may be a warning call to all or any folks to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries,” Ren Minghui, a WHO Assistant Director General, said within the report.
“If people have access to medical care and referral systems then cancer are often detected early, treated effectively and cured. Cancer shouldn’t be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere,” he said.
The report, timed to coincide with World Cancer Day, said an investment of $25 billion (23 billion euros) over subsequent decade could save seven million lives from cancer.
“Controlling cancer doesn’t need to be expensive,” Andre Ilbawi, of the WHO’s department for management of non-communicable diseases, told journalists.
The annual report found that overall cancer cases within the world would rise by 60 percent by 2040 and said tobacco use was liable for 25 percent of cancer deaths.
Elisabete Weiderpass, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which works with the WHO, said better cancer treatment in high-income countries had resulted during a 20-percent drop by mortality between 2000 and 2015.
But in poorer countries, the reduction was just five percent.
“We got to see everyone benefiting equally,” she said.
While cancer had long been considered a disease of made countries, this was not the case, the report said. It acknowledged that one in five people worldwide would face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.
“It’s a worldwide burden,” Ren said.