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WHO: Cancers Increasing But Not a 'Death Sentence'

FILE - This undated colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells.
WHO: Cancers Increasing But Not a “Death Sentence”
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The World Health Organization reports cancer is on the increase around the world. But it says preventive measures can save the lives of millions of cancer sufferers over the next 10 years.

The report was released in time for World Cancer Day (February 4).

Since 2010, nearly every country in the world has seen an increase in the number of cancer patients. The World Health Organization, WHO, reports one in six people will develop cancer in their lifetime. At least 10 million people will die from the disease every year.

If the current trend continues, WHO warns, new cancer cases will rise by 60 percent by the year 2040. In low- and middle-income countries, they will rise by more than 80 percent.

Andre Ilbawi is WHO’s technical officer in cancer control. He says more people are dying from cancer in poorer countries because they lack the services and cancer control measures that richer countries have.

Ilbawi said that controlling the disease does not have to cost a lot. The WHO report, he explained, shows that by investing in cancer services, governments can save 7 million lives by 2030. “And that is at the cost of $2.70 per person in low-income countries and $8.15 per person in upper middle-income countries. This is feasible,” Ilbawi said.

Cancer survivor Zainab Mohammad takes part in a cancer awareness walk in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 26, 2019. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)
Cancer survivor Zainab Mohammad takes part in a cancer awareness walk in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 26, 2019. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

WHO says cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Prevention works.

Elisabete Weiderpass is the director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. She says there have been great improvements in research on cancer prevention and treatment. These measures are successfully keeping many people alive who otherwise would have died.

Weiderpass said that preventive policies can work in powerful ways to reduce not only cancer numbers and death rates, but also the social and economic inequality in cancer cases.

An example of such a policy, she said, is one that reduces workers’ contact with cancer-causing materials. Other examples are measures to control tobacco use, vaccination against cancer-causing infectious agents and testing for early stages of cancer.

In its report, WHO describes a series of measures proven to help in preventing new cancer cases. For example, it notes that tobacco-related diseases are responsible for 25 percent of cancer deaths. Deciding not to smoke, it says, can save billions of dollars and millions of lives.

WHO adds that a vaccine against hepatitis B can prevent liver cancer. It notes another vaccine against HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, can nearly eliminate cervical cancer.

I’m Anne Ball.

Lisa Schlein wrote this story for VOA News. Anne Ball adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

trend – n. a general direction of change; a way of behaving that is developing and becoming more common

income – n. earnings or profits

feasible – adj. possible to do

death sentence – n. phrase. something, like a disease, that is sure to kill you

otherwiseadv. in a different way

eliminate – v. to remove or get rid of something