Forecast by WHO: Cancer incidents projected to surge by 77% by 2050

Forecast by WHO: Cancer incidents projected to surge by 77% by 2050

According to estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of new cancer cases worldwide is expected to reach 35 million in 2050. This would be a significant increase of 77 percent compared to the approximately 20 million cases diagnosed in 2022. Key factors contributing to this projected rise in cancer incidents include tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and air pollution.

“The new estimates highlight the current scale of cancer and the growing burden that is predicted in the coming years and decades,” said Freddie Bray, the head of cancer surveillance at the IARC. In 2022, an estimated 9.7 million cancer deaths were reported. The IARC’s biannual report, which incorporates data from 185 countries and covers 36 types of cancer, also revealed that around one in five people develop cancer during their lifetime, with one in nine men and one in 12 women succumbing to the disease.

The IARC attributes the rapidly growing global cancer burden to a combination of population aging, population growth, and changes in exposure to risk factors that are associated with socioeconomic development. Major contributors to the increasing incidence of cancer include tobacco, alcohol, and obesity, while air pollution remains a significant driver of environmental risk factors.

The IARC also emphasized that the threat of cancer varies depending on the geographical location of patients. The most developed countries are expected to witness the highest increases in case numbers, with an additional 4.8 million new cases forecasted in 2050 compared to 2022 estimates. However, in terms of percentages, countries with lower Human Development Index (HDI) scores, used by the United Nations as an indicator of social and economic development, will experience the greatest proportional increase, with a projected rise of 142 percent. Countries in the medium HDI range are predicted to see a 99-percent increase.

Bray expressed concern about the significant burden of cancer falling on lower-income and lower-HDI countries, which are ill-equipped to handle the cancer problem. He emphasized the need for increased investment in early diagnosis, cancer screening, prevention, and palliative care.

In terms of specific cancers, lung


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