New York, US - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday called for multi-pronged preventive action including treaties and laws extending tobacco-style restrictions to alcohol and sweetened beverages.
Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of WHO, made the call at the launch of a new report ahead of World Cancer Day on Tuesday.
He said: 'More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in the cancer burden.'
He said the report warned that the global battle against cancer would not be won with treatment alone and urgently needed effective prevention measures to curb the disease.
Dr. Wild noted that with new cancer cases worldwide expected to rise from 14 million to 22 million per year within the next two decades, and annual cancer deaths rising from 8.2 million to 13 million, there was need to put in more preventive efforts.
As an example of preventive strategies the report highlights the need for adequate legislation to reduce exposure and risk behaviours, citing the first international treaty sponsored by WHO, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as critical to reducing tobacco consumption.
Dr Wild noted that tobacco was a major contributor to lung and other cancers, and said its use could be controlled through taxes, advertising restrictions and other regulations and measures.
He said that similar approaches needed to be evaluated in other areas, notably consumption of alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages, and in limiting exposure to occupational and environmental carcinogenic risks, including air pollution.
The WHO official noted that about half of all cancers, whose total annual economic cost was estimated to reach approximately US$1.16 trillion, could be avoided if current knowledge was adequately implemented.
'Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants,' Dr. Wild said.
He said in low- and middle-income countries, it was critical that governments committed to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans.
The report, entitled: 'World Cancer Report 2014', also stressed that the cancer burden was mounting at an alarming pace.
'Due to growing and ageing populations, developing countries are disproportionately affected, with more than 60 per cent of cases and 70 per cent of deaths occurring in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.'
“Despite exciting advances, this report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,' Dr. Wild said, noting that the situation in the developing world was made worse by the lack of early detection and access to treatment.
'Access to effective and affordable cancer treatments in developing countries, including for childhood cancers, would significantly reduce mortality, even in settings where health-care services are less well developed,' he said.