We can. I can: with that declaration, World Cancer Day forges a global initiative Feb. 4 under which the world can unite together in the fight against the global cancer epidemic.
An initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), World Cancer Day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer while enjoining governments and individuals worldwide to take action against the disease.
The Geneva-based UICC, comprising more than 760 member-organizations in 155 countries, represents the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, and patient groups. Working through its network of members, key partners, the World Health Organization, World Economic Forum and others, the UICC’s mission is to eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations.
"World Cancer Day is the ideal opportunity to show how joining forces can have a global impact. Cancer is not only a health issue but has wide-reaching social, economic and development implications as well,” says UICC President Tezer Kutluck. “So it is a necessity that we, UICC, take a multisectorial approach, working together with governments, leaders, communities, key stakeholders, partners and individuals around the world to press for change to happen across the whole continuum of cancer care.”
WHAT IS CANCER?
The diseases of cancer are classified by the types of cells in which they develop. Most cancers, but not all, affect solid tissue and organs in the body. In these cases, cancer cells damage normal tissue by clumping together to form tumors, explains BCC Research analyst Usha Nagavarapu. Other cancers, such as leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma, involve the widespread distribution of cancer cells throughout the circulatory or lymphatic system or in the bone marrow, respectively.
“The mechanism of disease for cancers is quite complex and not fully understood. Most cancers arise from damage to genes or genetic mutations, either of which may be caused by internal or environmental factors,” Nagavarapu says.
We do know that the incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, most likely due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age, according to Paul Evers, a research analyst with BCC Research.
“The overall risk accumulation is combined with the tendency for cellular repair mechanisms to be less effective as a person grows older,” says Evers. “Chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and some types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are leading risk factors for cancer in low-income and middle-income countries. Cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV, is a leading cause of cancer death among women in low-income countries. Knowledge about the causes of cancer and interventions to prevent and manage the disease is extensive. Cancer can be reduced and controlled through implementation of evidence-based strategies for cancer prevention, early detection of cancer, and management of patients with cancer. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if detected early and treated adequately.
WORLD CANCER DECLARATION
This year alone, almost eight million people will die of cancer, and left unchecked, the number of deaths will rise to 13.2 million per year by 2030, according to UICC.
The World Cancer Declaration calls upon government leaders and health policy-makers to significantly reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.
UICC developed the World Cancer Declaration to help bring the growing cancer crisis to the attention of government leaders and health policymakers. The nine declaration targets, designed to significantly reduce the global cancer burden by 2020, have served as the basis for UICC recommendations to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The declaration, with more than 500,000 signatories, has also been instrumental in generating political will for cancer control targets both at UN and grassroots levels.
Among the nine declaration targets:
Strengthen healthy systems for effective cancer control. “Radiation therapy is the most common treatment to kill cancer cells in an attempt to cure or control the cancer," says Neha Maliwal, BCC Research analyst. “Defined as a branch of medicine, radiation oncology uses different types of radiation to treat and control cancer. When a living cell is exposed to ionizing radiation in a certain amount, it leads to cell death.” Maliwal says success and control rates have improved as better planning has been achieved by new equipment, new computer programs, more precise dosages and better quality control.
Universal access to screening and early detection of cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that global cancer incidence will rise to 17 million new cases by 2020, an increase of 50% over the 2005 rate. Newer biotherapeutics have emerged in the past few years that have had significant impacts on cancer treatment and healthcare, according to Nagavarapu. She says scientific developments and achievements in the field of genomics, proteomics and biomarker research are paving the path for new biologic therapies, promising to be significantly more effective compared to current treatment choices.
Universal vaccination programs for hepatitis B (HBV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) to prevent liver and cervical cancer. Vaccines are biological preparations that boost the immune system’s natural ability to protect the body against infectious agents that may cause disease, explains analyst Shalini S. Dewa. “The immune system can protect the body against threats posed by certain damaged, diseased or abnormal cells, including cancer cells. Some vaccines may help prevent certain cancers, as some cancers are caused by viruses.”
She says that vaccines that help protect against infection with these viruses might also help prevent some of these cancers. “Some strains of the human papillomavirus have been associated with cervical, anal, throat and some other cancers. Vaccines against HPV may help protect against some of these cancers. People with chronic infections of hepatitis B virus are at higher risk for liver cancer. Getting the vaccine to help prevent HBV infection may therefore lower the risk of developing liver cancer.”
Sanchia Aranda, UICC president elect, issues a clarion call befitting National Cancer Day: “Let's use World Cancer Day to push for stronger health systems, improve access to essential cancer medicines and reduce the financial toll of cancer on individuals and families. Together we can show that improving cancer outcomes is not beyond us.”
We can. I can.