Cancer Rate Set To Soar In Next 20 Years

By Amir Khan on June 1, 2012 8:13 AM EDT

Cancer
The cancer rate worldwide is set to increase by 75 percent in the next 20 years, according to a new study. (Photo: Flickr.com/fotointeresantes)

The worldwide cancer rate is set to soar in the next 20 years, according to a new study, published Thursday in the Lancet Oncology. People living longer coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle means the cancer rate will rise almost 75 percent by 2030, according to the study.

"Populations are growing throughout the world and populations are aging, which is why the number of cancer cases and deaths are going up globally," Nathan Gray, study author and national vice president for global health at the American Cancer Society, told WebMD.

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The majority of the increase will be from preventable cancers as more and more countries adopt a Western lifestyle, researchers said. While liver, cervical and stomach cancers are declining, cancers from bad diet, lack of exercise, smoking and other bad habits will increase.

By 2030, 90 percent of people in the poorest countries will have cancer, according to the study. Health initiatives aimed at reducing the rate of malaria and AIDS in these countries means people are living longer, but that comes with a price -- in this case, cancer.

 "These countries are increasingly ramped up to deal with HIV, AIDS, and malaria, and are not thinking about cancer," Grey told WebMD.

Researchers estimated that there will be 22.2 million new cancer cases by 2030, up from 12.7 in 2008.  Cancer treatment is expensive, so the researchers said focusing on prevention is paramount.

"You can do vaccinations and you can do low-cost screening and you can put taxes on tobacco products to reduce usage and that would make a huge difference," Gray told CNN.

He also said preventative measures don't have to be pharmaceutical based, and that there are much cheaper options available.

"We can vaccinate people in developing countries against HPV, the virus that is responsible for many types of cervical cancer," he told WebMD. "Swabbing the cervix with vinegar and looking for abnormalities is incredibly cheap. We can train health care providers to do it and save a lot of lives."

Raghib Ali, a cancer expert at Oxford University, who was not involved in the study, told the Associated Press that cancer treatment is expensive, but preventative measures are much cheaper.

"Even developed countries can't afford to pay for some of the newer, targeted cancer treatments," he said.

Ali said people should be encouraged to eat better and start smoking, but admitted that "these are a lot of the things that people don't want to do."

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