As global populations grow, so does the cancer burden, a new study from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported. The results of the latest analysis of the incidence and mortality of 36 types of cancer in 185 countries were published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians in September 2018.

One in five men and one in six women around the world will develop cancer in their lifetime and one in eight men and one in 11 women will die from the disease, the study showed. Overall, cancer incidence rose to an estimated 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths by the end of 2018.

Cause and Effect

The researchers attribute the increase to the growing and aging population rates around the world. But socioeconomic factors are also at play: rapidly growing economies are seeing a shift from high rates of cancers related to poverty and infections to those associated with more industrialized lifestyles.

And in certain parts of the world, some cancers decreased, such as lung cancer in men in Northern Europe and Northern America and cervical cancer in women in most parts of the world except Sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers believe that effective prevention strategies are causing the shift.

The Numbers by Region

Nearly half of new cases and more than half of cancer deaths in 2018 will occur in Asia, in part because the continent is hope to nearly 60% of the world’s population. The Americas, with 13% of the global population, has a 21% incidence and 14.4% mortality burden. Europe, with just 9% of the population, has a 23.4% incidence and 20.3% mortality burden.

However, in regions with more developing countries, the proportion of cancer deaths is higher than the incidence: in Asia, deaths are calculated at 57.3% whereas new cases are 48.4%. Africa’s numbers are 7.3% for cancer deaths and 5.8% for new cases. The researchers explained that the two regions have a higher burden of cancers with poor prognosis and mortality rates, as well as limited access to timely diagnosis and treatments.

Major Cancer Types in 2018

Lung, female breast, and colorectal cancers are the top three in global incidence and first, fifth, and second, respectively in mortality. Together, they are responsible for one-third of the incidence and mortality burden worldwide. See Tables 1 and 2 for the top five cancers in terms of incidence and mortality.

In both developed and developing countries, lung cancer ranks first and prostate cancer second in new cases among men. It accounts for 14.5% of the total cases in men and 22% of cancer deaths in men, about one in five of all cancer deaths.

Among women, breast cancer incidence is highest in both developed and developing countries, followed by colorectal cancer in developed countries and cervical cancer in developing countries. Global breast cancer incidence in women is 24.2% or one in four of all new cancer cases and accounts for 15% of global cancer deaths in women. However, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in 28 countries.

“These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play,” IARC Director Christopher Wild said.