Cancer in Developing Countries

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide accounting for the deaths of nearly 10 million people in 2020; approximately 70% of which occur in low- and middle- income countries. 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.

Over 19 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2020; the number of new cancer cases is expected to increase more than 76% in low- and mid- income countries by 2040. 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 little or no access to effective pain relief. As a result, cancer patients and their families have to endure terrible suffering.

The need to carefully plan cancer services in Africa is well recognised, in view of the limited resources available to combat the rising tide of non-communicable diseases, and especially cancer. Rational planning must be based on accurate information on the size and nature of the problem to be addressed, and, especially in Africa, population-based cancer registries are a crucial component of national cancer control plans. The AFCRN continued to provide technical and scientific support to cancer registries in SSA; delivered tailored training in cancer registration methods and the management of the data; advocated the cause of cancer registration in the region and facilitated setting up associations and networks of cancer registries; and coordinated international research projects and the dissemination of findings.

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.