February 4th is World Cancer Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness and education about cancer, and encouraging governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease. This year’s World Cancer Day will focus on Target 5 of the World Cancer Declaration: Dispel damaging myths and misconceptions about cancer. The aim is to improve general knowledge around cancer and dismiss misconceptions about the disease.
One in three people will be affected by cancer at some stage in their life. In 2008, there were 7.8 million cancer deaths and 12.7 million cancer cases. Without intervention, the global cancer burden is projected to increase by 75% in the next 20 years. Every month 600,000 people die of cancer and many of these deaths may be avoided with increased support and funding for prevention, detection and treatment programmes.
For example, a study published last year in BMC Cancer showed that public awareness of colorectal cancer, the 3rd most common type of cancer in men and the 2nd most common in women, remains persistently low in the UK, emphasising the continuing need to educate the public, particularly about the link between lifestyle behaviours and cancer risk.
Similarly, a recent article reported on the association between alcohol consumption and risk of incident ovarian carcinoma in which the authors concluded that understanding the modifiable causes of cancers must remain a priority for the research community.
The greatest increase in cancer is projected to hit low- and middle-income countries, those least equipped to cope with the social and economic impact of the disease. Of the 7.6 million global deaths from cancer in 2008, more than 55% occurred in less developed regions of the world. By 2030, 60-70% of the estimated 21.4 million new cancer cases per year are predicted to occur in developing countries. Cervical cancer is just one example of the disproportionate burden borne in the developing world. Over 85% of the 275,000 women who die every year from cervical cancer are from developing countries. However, as highlighted in a recent study in Northwest Ethiopia, knowledge of cervical cancer among women in this region is very poor. The authors highlight that education about the disease must include information on risk factors, signs and symptoms.
Hopefully, initiatives such as World Cancer Day will help achieve the targets outlined in the World Cancer Declaration, which are to place cancer on the political agenda, improve cancer prevention and early detection, and enhance access to and treatment for cancer patients. As an open access journal providing unrestricted and free access to scientific and scholarly work, BMC Cancer also supports these aims, and hopes to help raise awareness by disseminating research in the cancer field in a freely-accessible manner.