UN health agency proposes anticancer plan that could save millions of lives

Marking World Cancer Day, the United Nations health agency today proposed a global strategy that could save the lives of more than 8 million of an estimated 84 million people expected to die over the next decade from the growing scourge.The World Health Organization (WHO) said its plan seeks to reduce chronic disease death rates by 2 percent per year up to 2015 and would target the main causes of cancer and the health situation in low- and middle-income countries, where more than 70 per cent of all cancer deaths occur.“We must, first and foremost, address the tremendous inequalities between developed and developing countries in terms of cancer prevention, treatment and care,” said Dr. Catherine Le Galès-Camus, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at the Geneva-based agency.“Despite our knowledge that many cases are avoidable, or curable when detected early and treated according to best evidence, sadly for many people tumours are detected too late and adequate treatment is not available,” she added.Cancer killed an estimated 7.6 million people in 2005 and tobacco use alone accounts for some 1.5 million cancer deaths every year, the agency said, making tobacco was the leading preventable cause of cancer.However it is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all cancer can be prevented, WHO said, while warning that increases in risk factors – including tobacco use and obesity – were contributing to the rise in cancer rates, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Cancer, as well as the incidence of other chronic diseases, is also increasing because of the globalization of markets and urbanization, which in turn have led to rising consumption of processed foods high in fats, sugars and salt, declining consumption of fruit and vegetables, and more sedentary life styles. To try and counter this situation, WHO said that later this year it would publish “Cancer Control: Knowledge into Action – WHO Guide for Effective Programmes,” a series of six information packs aimed at helping States to develop strategies to improve prevention, treatment and care of cancer patients.Last year also saw the first-ever WHO global health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, aimed at reducing tobacco use, and the first meeting to discuss this agreement will start on Monday in Geneva. The agency also has a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health which aims to reduce key risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases.

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