World Cancer Day Addresses Global Disparities in Cancer Care

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FEBRUARY 4 was World Cancer Day, which raises awareness for the millions of people worldwide facing unequal access to cancer detection, treatment, and care services. Oncology leaders, health-care professionals, and supporters across the world are pushing for urgent action to reduce the rate of premature cancer deaths globally and are demanding that diagnostic and treatment access be prioritized. 

Every year, World Cancer Day, led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), rallies the world’s voices against what the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized for the first time as the leading cause of global morbidity. 

Oncology leaders present at World Cancer Day pushed for a global target of a 25% reduction in premature deaths from cancer and noncommunicable diseases by 2025. To deliver on this global commitment, the current inequities in risk factor exposure, access to screening, as well as timely and appropriate treatment and care must all be addressed. 

A Look at the Numbers 

THERE ARE an estimated 8.8 million deaths from cancer every year, with approximately 70% of deaths occur in developing countries, which are the most ill-equipped to cope with the cancer burden. The low-to middle-income countries bear the brunt, with the starkest area of inequity relating to childhood cancers; survival rates are over 80% in high-income countries and as low as 20% in low-income countries. 

Inequities are also acutely experienced in high- to middle-income countries, particularly within certain populations, including the indigenous, immigrant, refugee, rural, and lower-socioeconomic populations. 

New UICC Campaign 

AS AN URGENT response to the global equity gap and the critical need for an in-country response, UICC officially launched “Treatment for All.” It marks the second new initiative by UICC to mobilize national action to improve access to diagnosis and treatment of cancer and is a direct acknowledgment of the cancer burden, which cannot be alleviated exclusively through prevention to reduce cancer incidence. 

The Treatment for All campaign hopes to empower individuals, cities, countries, and governments to improve the quality of cancer data for public health use, increase the number of people with access to early detection and accurate cancer diagnosis, as well as establish greater timely and quality treatment of early and metastatic diseases. ■