27 August 2012

Experts warn of human and economic cost of inaction on cancer

Ministers of Health and leading international figures at the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) today committed to reduce the burden of cancer through supporting wider uptake of national cancer control plans (NCCPs*) and, in consequence, tackle the staggering economic and social costs of the disease.

Cancer imparts on all societies a heavy burden of distress, suffering and death which is set to have enormous economic impact if governments do not take action now. This is true throughout the world, but particularly in countries lacking the health infrastructure to cope with the increasing number of people affected by the disease. Without sustained action, cancer incidence is projected to increase by 70% in middle-income countries and 82% in lower-income countries by 2030.[1]

It is also estimated that cancer and the other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - diabetes, cardiovascular and lung disease - will cause an economic loss of output in low and middle income economies exceeding $7 trillion by 2025 - a yearly loss equivalent to 4% of annual output in these countries.[2]

“National cancer control programmes evaluate the best ways to control and prevent cancer at country level”, says Dr Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, World Health Organization (WHO). “Governments who early on committed to address noncommunicable diseases are already seeing progress in reducing cancer, diagnosing sooner and saving lives. Based on these successful examples, more countries should implement similar programmes.”

Cancer leaders and government representatives from 50 countries assembled today at the WCLS, heard how nations which have designed and implemented robust NCCPs are now demonstrating marked progress in reducing the incidence of, and deaths caused by, cancer. Also showcased at this meeting was the value of robust data provided by population-based cancer registries in guiding and monitoring NCC planning, plus how governments around the world can articulate the economic case for action. For these reasons, delegates embracing academia, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector, agreed to help support governments in the implementation of strong, action-oriented NCCPs in all countries by sharing best practice and information.

“With cancer incidence set to rise dramatically in low- and middle-income countries in the next twenty years, an unsustainable burden is falling on these nations, both economically and socially. The international cancer community must commit support and expertise to help the developing world combat this trend through measures adapted to the specific cancer patterns occurring in these countries," commented Dr Christopher Wild, International Agency for Research on Cancer.

A 2011 WHO report noted that the introduction of global interventions which will help avoid many millions of premature NCD deaths would cost approximately $11bn per annum to implement and result in many billions of dollars of additional global economic output.[3]

In recognition of the importance of NCCPs in the global fight against the disease, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) also today launched a new tool to help countries in their implementation of these critical programmes. The Supporting national cancer control planning: a toolkit for Civil Society Organizations provides CSOs with practical guidance and information to allow them to support their national authority in NCCP development.

“We know the cost of inaction against cancer hugely outweighs the cost of action. We therefore urge governments without NCCPs to pledge the appropriate resources and financial support to implement these life-saving programmes. In turn, UICC is helping CSOs support national governments in realising the commitments they have made to improving cancer control," commented Dr Mary Gospodarowicz, incoming UICC President.

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