There is a greater need to invest more and increase awareness about cancer and provide for screening and treatment as well as preventive measures, especially in the developing countries. The most recent reports of World Health Organization states that 70% of total cancer deaths in recent years have been in countries belonging to low and middle income group.
The threat is particularly higher for women. A study points out that breast cancer and cervical cancer are killing more women in developing countries than childbirth, which was presumably the biggest risk for women till now.
What Is The Reason Behind This?
As child survival has improved and infectious diseases have been brought under control, people in developing countries are living longer but are now prone to diseases which happen because of old age. Aging women are more susceptible to breast cancer while older men are prone to get prostate cancer.
The degree of development of a country could play a major role in the types of cancers more prevalent in that country. The US could see a rise in cancers related to obesity, like those of breast and colon. In less developed countries, cancers related to infections could increase. These may be cancers of cervix, stomach and liver.
Greater urbanization and longer life expectancy have brought about many lifestyle changes like tobacco and alcohol consumption, intake of calorie-rich fast food, less physical activity, wearing more revealing clothes and late pregnancies. The combination of all this has been also responsible for rise in cases of skin cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer, which are more frequent in developed countries. Lung cancer among women is also on the rise as more women are smoking these days.
The bigger problem with such cancers caused by lifestyle changes is that as developing countries see a rise in the number of cancers similar to those in developed countries, the healthcare facilities in these countries are far behind those in developed countries. This could result in more cancer deaths.
Another reason behind this phenomenon could be the lack of awareness and misunderstandings in many parts of the world. Cancer screenings and treatments are believed to be very expensive and complex even now. Moreover, with numerous infections and communicable diseases already posing a great threat to developing countries, cancer does not feature on the priority list of people dealing with public health concerns.
What Can Be Done?
There is a need for large scale reforms. A multi-pronged approach- which creates awareness, educates people about the risk, provides treatment and related services, implements public health policies as well as handles the social stigma and resistance related to cancer- is the need of the hour.
Vaccination against HPV can help, as it causes cervical cancer. Screening should be made less expensive and affordable for everyone. Control on tobacco sales and consumption could also reduce the cases of smoking related cancers. It is a good sign that some governments are realizing the threat of cancer and are increasing efforts to support cancer research. Stringent measures adopted by governments could prevent up to one-third of cancer cases in the world.
According to Nick Ormiston-Smith, who manages statistical information at Cancer Research UK, as many as 40% of all cancers could be the result of lifestyle factors. So it would wise to give up habits like smoking and consuming alcohol and switching to healthier habits like eating healthy and indulging in some exercise regularly to reduce the risk of cancer.