Global cancer cases set to double by 2050, says WHO report

The WHO report serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for global action to confront the escalating cancer crisis and provide comprehensive support to those affected by the disease.

Follow us:
Courtesy: Flickr

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) has released alarming projections indicating a substantial rise in cancer cases worldwide by the year 2050, with estimates suggesting a staggering 77% increase in new cases compared to 2022 figures. The report underscores the urgent need for enhanced resources and services to address the growing cancer burden across the globe.

Escalating cancer threat

The latest estimates from the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer paint a concerning picture for the future of global health. By 2050, it is anticipated that there will be over 35 million new cancer cases worldwide, a significant surge from the 20 million cases recorded in 2022. Shockingly, this spike in cancer incidence is poised to result in a doubling of cancer-related deaths, reaching an estimated 18.5 million by 2050.

Regional impact

Africa is projected to experience the most substantial rise in cancer cases, with an anticipated 140% increase to 2.8 million cases by 2050, compared to 1.2 million cases in 2022. Meanwhile, Asia, which currently bears the highest cancer burden globally, is expected to witness a 77% surge in cases, totaling 17.4 million by 2050.

Dominant cancer types

Lung, female breast, and colorectal cancers collectively accounted for over 6.7 million new cases globally in 2022, representing approximately one-third of all new cancer diagnoses. These cancers also contributed to 35% of the 9.7 million cancer-related deaths recorded in the same year.

Drivers of the epidemic

Several factors contribute to the anticipated rise in cancer cases, including demographic shifts and changes in lifestyle behaviours. The ageing global population is a significant contributor, with projections indicating a rise in cancer incidence as the elderly population grows. Additionally, increased exposure to risk factors such as air pollution, tobacco, alcohol, and obesity are expected to fuel the cancer epidemic.

Disparities in care services

The WHO's survey revealed concerning disparities in cancer care services across countries with universal health coverage. Shockingly, only 39% of surveyed countries include basic cancer management as part of their essential health services, with even fewer providing palliative care services. High-income countries outpace lower-income nations in terms of coverage for lung cancer treatment and stem-cell transplantation, highlighting significant inequities in cancer care access.

Call for action

Dr. Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control, emphasised the urgent need for governments to prioritise cancer care and ensure equitable access to quality services. Addressing the disparities in cancer treatment outcomes is crucial to prevent unnecessary loss of life and ensure that everyone, regardless of location or income, has access to essential cancer care services.