In the World Cancer Report 2014, the WHO predicts that the number of new cancer cases in the world could increase by 70% to nearly 25 million a year over the next 20 years.
Half of the cases could be prevented, the WHO said, as alcohol abuse, a high level of sugar consumption and obesity have been linked to cancer.
However, an ageing population is also a fundamental factor for the development of cancer. The disease is expected to place an even larger burden on EU health systems as Europeans lead ever longer lives.
According to the most recent published data, there were an estimated 1.4 million new cases of cancer in men and 1.4 million in women in the EU in 2012. In the same year, around 707,000 men and 555,000 women died from cancer, making the disease the second most common cause of death in the EU.
The transformation from a normal cell into a tumour cell is a multistage process and typically the result of interaction between a person's genetic factors and external agents such as exposure to radiation, tobacco smoke or infections from viruses.
The European Commission's has made it its goal to reduce the number of cancer cases in the EU by 15% by 2020. The EU executive has launched 'The European partnership for action against cancer' (EPAAC), financed as a Joint Action under the EU Health Programme. Work under this Joint Action has helped to ensure that today 24 out of 28 member states have adopted national cancer plans, compared with 17 in 2009.
The Commission has also through its Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) joined forces with the pharmaceutical industry to achieve innovation and bring new medicines and treatments to patients faster, including for cancer.