Prevention is key to curb cancer burden, says new report

The “World cancer report 2014”, released in the run-up to World Cancer Day, 4 February, confirms the truth of an old saying: prevention is better than cure. Based on the latest statistics on trends in cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, this new report reveals how the cancer burden is growing at an alarming pace, and emphasizes the importance of political commitment and urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease.

Dr Bernard W. Stewart, co-editor of the report, said: “Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants.”

Successful tobacco legislation as a model

Citing WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as critical in reducing tobacco consumption through taxes, advertising restrictions and other measures to control and discourage tobacco use, the authors call for similar approaches to be evaluated for use in other areas. As the impact of tobacco diminishes, thanks to a strong commitment from Member States, cancer can be further reduced by taking on alcohol consumption, sugar-sweetened beverages (which induce obesity) and limiting exposure to occupational and environmental carcinogenic risks, such as air pollution.

Dr Gauden Galea, Director of WHO/Europe’s Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and the Life-course, said, “Within our region we have many excellent examples of legislation having a positive impact on cancer, and we have seen much success with tobacco control. If we can now apply the same blend of evidence-based policy-making and determination to obesity and alcohol, we could save many thousands of lives.”

The report also recognizes the importance of early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. While praising screening and treatment programmes worldwide, the authors warn that health promotion alone is insufficient.

The report is published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is WHO’s specialized cancer agency.