Cancer Incidence and Mortality Declining in Wealthy Countries, Rising in Poor Countries

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report published this week in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that when it comes to the global prevalence of cancer, money matters.

Better access to screening programs and disease awareness campaigns are reducing the incidence of common cancers in most high-income countries. However, the report suggests that low- and middle-income countries have actually seen a rise in cancer rates in recent years.

Researchers sought to observe the differences in cancer incidence in mortality rates among countries of varying income levels on five continents. They gathered data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer to analyze trends from 2003-2012.

Results showed that high-income countries continue to have the highest incidence rates for lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, but some low- and middle-income countries are now among those with the highest global cancer rates. These poorer countries, on the other hand, have the highest incidence rates for stomach, liver, esophageal, and cervical cancer.

The data suggest that mortality rates for these common cancers are either plateauing or declining in rich countries, but are on the rise in poorer countries.

The lead authors of the study concluded that the reduction in cancer prevalence in high-income countries is due to decreases in known risk factors, better access to screening and early detection, and improved treatment.

Conversely, low- and middle-income countries are seeing increases in cancer prevalence due to a shift toward poor lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and physical inactivity, along with a disproportionate burden of infection-related cancers.

The authors emphasize a need for better global cancer control efforts and more accessible screening and treatment methods in low-and middle-income countries.

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