The Burden

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and accounted for 7.6 million deaths (around 15% of all deaths) in 2008. 66% of all cancer deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Deaths from
cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 13.1 million deaths in 2030.

The Disease

The main types of cancer are:

• Lung (1.4 million deaths/year)
• Stomach (737,000 deaths)
• Liver (695,000 deaths)
• Colorectum (609,000 deaths)
• Breast (458,000 deaths)

The Socioeconomic Impact

A joint report by the American Cancer Society and Livestrong identified the total economic burden of premature death and disability due to cancer to be 895 billion USD in 2008. This was 1.5% of the world’s GDP in 2008 and did not include the direct costs of medical treatments for cancer.

The Response

Prevention and risk factors

More than 30 % of cancers are preventable through modification of behavior and lifestyles. In addition to the risk factors of unhealthy diet, tobacco use, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol, reduction in exposure to cancer-related infections such as HPV (cervical cancer), HBV (liver cancer) and helicobacter pylori (stomach cancer), as well as environmental and occupational exposure to carcinogens are the focus areas of cancer prevention.

Early Detection

Many of the most common high-impact cancers – breast, cervical, oral and colorectal cancers – lend themselves to affordable and accessible early detection through screening, with high potential for recovery if diagnosed at an early stage and appropriate treatment is provided.


Treatment involves a series of interventions, including psychosocial support, surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy aimed at curing the disease or prolonging life considerably while improving the patients’ quality of life.

Palliative Care

Palliative care, including access to pain relief is an urgent humanitarian need worldwide for children and adults with advanced cancers. Current estimates suggest that at least 2.9 million cancer and HIV/AIDs patients suffer the terminal phase of their disease with no pain relief. At the 67th WHA in May 2014, a ground-breaking resolution was adopted to drive national action to reduce barriers to the accessibility and availability of palliative care. To read the final resolution click here. For more information on palliative care visit the website of the World Palliative Care Alliance.

Learn more via UICC
Sources: and

Photo courtesy: PAHO/Mexico, Fickr