Cancer Facts

There are a variety of cancer factsthat you should be aware of. Cancer represents a huge burden on our society as a whole. It is one of the leading causes of death in the world, second only to deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. Cancer affects everyone – young and old, rich and poor, men, women and children.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime. However, according to the World Health Organization, over 30% of cancers can be prevented, while others can be detected early, treated and cured.

Cancer is a disease can affect any part of the body. One defining feature of cancer is the rapid creation of abnormal cells that grow past their usual boundaries and can then invade nearby organs or spread to other organs altogether. This can include organs that are far away from where the cancer originated. This process is called metastasis. It is the development of metastases that is the major cause of death from cancer.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2004 cancer statistics show that it accounted for 7.4 million deaths, or around 13% of all deaths worldwide. The types of cancer which lead to the most deaths each year are:

  • Lung (1.3 million deaths per year)
  • stomach (803,000 deaths)
  • colorectal (639,000 deaths)
  • liver (610,000 deaths)v
  • breast (519,000 deaths).

Cancer deaths are most prevalent in low- and middle- income countries, accounting for more than 70% of all cancer deaths. The cancer facts are startling, with the numbers projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths worldwide in the year 2030.

Studying cancer facts reveals that the most frequent type of cancers differ amongst men and women. Among men, the most frequent types of cancer are: lung, stomach, liver, colorectal, oesophagus and prostate. For women, breast cancer is the most common, followed by, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical cancer.

Ovarian cancer is not a common cancer, but cancer facts show us that is accounts for a disproportionate amount of deaths from cancer. For example, it ranks 8th in the number of cancers diagnosed in women in the US, but is 5th in the number of cancer deaths. If you are asking yourself, “what is ovarian cancer?” Click on the link for information on this disease.

Cancer Facts Regarding the Causes of Cancer
To understand cancer and what causes it, we need to first answer the question: “What is cancer?” Click on the link to learn more about what cancer actually is. Cancer arises from one single cell. The transformation from a normal cell into a tumor cell is a multistage process. These changes are the result of the interaction between an individual’s genetic factors and different types of external agents. These include:

  • Chemical carcinogens (asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin, arsenic, etc)
  • Physical carcinogens (e.g. ultraviolet and ionizing radiation)
  • Biological carcinogens (e.g. infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites)

Ageing is another fundamental factor for the development of cancer. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age. In developed countries, tobacco use, alcohol use, and being overweight or obese are major risk factors for cancer. For more information on what causes cancer, click on the link.

Reducing the Cancer Burden

The number of people who die from cancer can be reduced by implementing strategies for cancer prevention, early detection of cancer and management of patients with cancer. As I mentioned above, more than 30% of cancers could be avoided by just modifying or avoiding risk factors such as: smoking, being obese or overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, not enough physical activity, and alcohol use.

Early detection is another key area where the number of deaths from cancer can be reduced. Approximately one third of cancer deaths could be avoided if they were detected and treated early. Early detection is based on the observation that treatment is more effective in the early stages of cancer and involves detecting the cancer before it has spread to other organs (metastasized)