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WHO Warns of 22 Million Cancer Cases a Year Within Two Decades

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Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization’s cancer agency warned there will be 22 million new cases of cancer each year within two decades, as the burden of the disease falls disproportionately on developing countries.

There were probably 14 million new cases of cancer in 2012, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said today in its World Cancer Report 2014. The most common were lung, breast and bowel tumors, representing 13 percent, 11.9 percent and 9.7 percent of cases, respectively. Lung cancer was also the most common cause of death from any malignancy, accounting for 19.4 percent of an estimated 8.2 million fatalities.

The numbers show that prevention strategies must be paired with effective and affordable treatments in order to save lives around the world, the agency said. It projected that cancer deaths will rise to 13 million per year within two decades. About 70 percent of those fatalities now occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, the IARC said.

“We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” Christopher Wild, director of the IARC and an author of the report, said in a statement. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.”

The annual economic cost of cancer was probably about $1.16 trillion in 2010, the IARC said. The agency called for screening campaigns as well as vaccination to help stop infection-related cancers like cervical and liver tumors, alongside a push for lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and exercising more.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Kresge in Berlin at nkresge@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.net