One third of cancer cases could be prevented through government action, says WHO

According to a new publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer rates could be significantly reduced by stemming tobacco use and improving diet and physical activity. The EU addresses these factors in the framework of its Community Action Programme for Public Health.

The WHO's World Cancer Report predicts the number of cancer cases will increase globally from 10 million in 2000 to 15 million by 2020. The sharp rise is a result of ageing populations, the prevalence of smoking and the adoption of unhealthy lifestyles.

The highest percentage increase in cancer cases will affect Eastern Europe, where a 200 per cent rise is projected for 2020. In Western Europe, the increase will be 25 per cent, while in Southern Europe, the number of cancer patients is expected to grow by 18 per cent. The only region worldwide where a decrease in cancer occurrences is forecast is Northern Europe, where the number of cancer patients is projected to drop by 50 per cent.

Among the different types of cancer, lung, liver, stomach, esophageal and bladder cancer affect males primarily, while most women die from breast cancer.

However, according to the WHO report, a third of the cancer cases could be prevented if governments took action to reduce tobacco consumption, promote a healthy lifestyle and diet, as well as through conducting regular screening for early detection.

The EU's Community Action Programme for Public Health (2003-2008) addresses, as a priority area, lifestyle-related health determinants, including smoking and nutrition.


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