Cancer in Developing Countries

Cancer is a leading cause of deathworldwide accounting for the deaths of 8.2 million people in 2012. More than 60% of new cases of cancer occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. These regions also account for 70% of the world’s cancer deaths. Globally cancer is killing more people in the low and middle income countries than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined, at an average rate of ten deaths a minute.

80% of patients with cancer in low and middle income countries are only diagnosed when their cancers are too advanced for curative treatment. In many of these countries there is a little or no access to opioids for effective pain relief. As a result cancer patients and their families have to endure terrible suffering.

Cancer causing viral infections such as the Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Human Papilloma viruses are responsible for up to 20% of cancer deaths in low-and middle-income countries. In addition, increased urbanisation and the promotion of a more ‘western’ lifestyle has led to their populations being increasingly exposed to the five major behavioural and dietary risks recognised by the World Health Organisation: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use (causing over 20% of all cancer deaths) and excessive alcohol use. It is expected that by 2030 the global annual number of new cases of cancer will rise from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million.

Seven pillars support effective cancer control: cancer registration, prevention, detection, early diagnosis, treatment, palliative care and research. Nearly all of the major cancer charities focus on national populations or specific cancers; there are very few global cancer charities. Established in 1998, the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), is one of a handful of global organisations that builds capacity by providing support and training in cancer treatment and research in the front line in low and middle income countries. INCTR has a wide range of programmes of which four – cancer registration, the treatment of children with Burkitts lymphoma or retinoblastoma, and palliative care – are currently supported by the INCTR Challenge Fund.

For further information about the range of INCTR activities please click here.