One of the drawbacks of living longer: Rates of cancer set to double within 20 years as population ages
Britain will see surge in tumours affecting the lung, breast, prostate and bowel owing to unhealthy lifestyle factors and an ageing population
06:59 GMT, 1 June 2012
Old habits die hard: An unhealthy lifestyle – along with the fact that we are all living longer – will contribute to a rise in cancer rates, according to research
The number of people suffering cancer will almost double worldwide within the next 20 years because of our unhealthy lifestyle, according to new research.
Britain and other rich nations will see a surge in tumours affecting the lung, breast, prostate and bowel owing to unhealthy lifestyle factors and an ageing population.
Higher-income countries tend to have greater levels of obesity and alcohol consumption and lower levels of exercise, which boost cancer risks.
Meanwhile, less well off countries will face a dramatic rise in forms of the disease caused by infection, such as cervical cancer.
In the first study of its kind, scientists calculated the global burden of 12.7million new cases in 2008 will increase to 22.2 million by 2030 – more than 75 percent more.
Dr Freddie Bray, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, said: 'Cancer is already the leading cause of death in many high-income countries and is set to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the next decades in every region of the world.
'This study serves as an important reference point in drawing attention to the need for global action to reduce the increasing burden of cancer.'
The developing world will feel the brunt, with the poorest countries experiencing a projected rise of more than 90 percent.
Dr Bray and colleagues analysed varying patterns of incidence and mortality of different types of cancer between countries as measured by the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) which is based on life expectancy, education and gross domestic product per head.
They found disease rates and the burden of some types of cancer such as cervical and stomach seem to be mainly declining in countries changing towards higher levels of human development.
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But the reduction is likely to be offset by a substantial increase in the types of cancer more associated with a ‘Westernised’ lifestyle including breast, prostate and bowel tumours.
The study published online in The Lancet Oncology used data from GLOBOCAN, a database compiled by the IARC comprising of estimates of cancer incidence and mortality in 2008 in 184 countries worldwide.
The seven most common forms of the disease are lung, breast, bowel, stomach, prostate, liver and cervical.
The researchers said countries with a low HDI, mainly those in sub-Saharan Africa, currently experience a high incidence of cancers associated with infection, particularly cervical cancer and, dependent on the region or country, liver and stomach tumours.
But countries with a higher HDI such as the UK, Australia, Russia, and Brazil have a greater number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking, and forms of the disease triggered by reproductive risk factors, obesity and diet such as breast, prostate and bowel tumours.
The study also revealed prostate and breast cancer rates appear to be rising in most countries currently with medium, high or very high levels of HDI whereas stomach and cervical cancer are mainly falling.
The researchers said the results provide a startling indicator of likely global cancer trends over the next few decades.
The research follows a World Cancer Fund report published earlier this year that warned new cases of cancer could rise by 30 per cent in the UK by 2030, due to unhealthy lifestyle choices and an ageing population.