February 4th is celebrated as World Cancer Day each year. The theme for 2019-2021 is ‘I Am and I Will’- a call to people to identify themselves and pledge action in support of cancer care.
Some common myths and misconceptions about cancer – including that there is no cure or there is nothing that can be done about cancer – can understandably cause fear.
However, misinformation, misconceptions and stigma around cancer creates a negative cycle that further acts to confirm our fears. Our fears can prevent us from seeking early detection, or to delay or avoid treatment and care altogether.
Often, by receiving diagnosis at a late stage or not seeking treatment at all, this can result in worse outcomes, which in turn perpetuates the myths and misconception of cancer being incurable or untreatable.
Cancer is a critical health and human issue.
9.6 million people each year will die from cancer, making it the second-
most deadly disease.
Yet, according to the World Health Organization, at least one third of common cancers are preventable through
- a healthy diet,
- maintaining a healthy weight and
- being physically active.
Approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in developing countries, which are the most ill-equipped to cope with the cancer burden.
90% of low- to middle- income countries don’t have access to radiotherapy – one of the essential tools to treat cancer.
The total annual economic cost of cancer is estimated at approximately US$1.16 trillion.
Investing US$11 billion in prevention strategies in low- to middle-income countries could potentially save US$100 billion in cancer treatment costs.
Not all cancers show early signs and symptoms. However, many cancers can and do show signs that something isn’t quite right. These include
- oral, and
- some childhood cancers.
Prevention and Control
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer and stopping smoking is one of the best things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer.
Smoking is responsible for 71% of lung cancer deaths and 22% of all cancer deaths.
Use of tobacco has been found to cause around 15 different types of cancer including
oral cancers, lung, liver, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers, as well as some
types of leukaemia (cancers of the blood).
Quitting at any age can make huge a difference, increasing your life expectancy and improving quality of life
Alcohol is strongly linked with an increased risk of several cancers. By reducing and limiting how much you drink, you can reduce your risk of cancers of the
- bowel and
and may also reduce the risk of liver and bowel cancers.
Maintaining a healthy weight and making physical activity part of your everyday life can help reduce your risk of ten cancers, which include
- advanced prostate and gallbladder cancers
No matter where you live or your skin tone, moderate your exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and avoid tanning beds and solariums to help reduce
your risk of skin cancer.
Chronic infections (commonly caused by viruses) are estimated to cause approximately 16% of all cancers globally. Today, there are safe and effective vaccines against Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which can help to protect against the infection-related cancers of liver and cervical cancers.
What can we do?
As individuals we can take responsibility for our health, including getting vaccinated and reminding others to get vaccinated, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and excessive/prolonged sun exposure.
Governments and policy leaders can implement vaccination programmes which prevent infections that cause cervical and liver cancer, regulate solariums and tanning salons, and ban the mining and export of asbestos
Schools can be champions of healthy behaviours among children, staff, parents, families and the wider community by cultivating an environment that supports good nutrition and physical activity, as well as providing information on other cancer risk factors
Workplaces and employers can implement measures in the workplace that will motivate and sustain healthy habits throughout a person’s everyday life and put in place policies to prevent occupational exposure to cancer-causing agents, such as asbestos and other workplace carcinogens, as well as fostering physical activity, healthy nutrition and creating smoke-free spaces.
Cities and communities can take the lead in creating a quality urban environment that
promotes and protects the health and wellbeing of its citizens
Link to World Cancer Day website:
Link to World Cancer Day 2019 videos:
World Cancer Day 2019 Message by CEO of UICC
Link to WHO Guide to Cancer Early Diagnosis (2017):