UHS logga 16:9

Background: Why We Need to Talk About Cancer

According to the WHO, 8.2 million people died in cancer in 2012. An estimated 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred worldwide in the same year. The incidence is projected to increase by 70 % over the next twenty years, a large majority of which will occur in low- and middle-income countries.


As our capacity to treat improves, more people are cured. But many will also continue to live with their disease. Thanks to advancements in health in other areas, people will live longer and more cancers will have time to develop. More countries must now prepare not only for prevention of cancer, but also for early diagnostics and efficient treatments. How can we deal with the pressure this puts on already strained healthcare budgets?

Life style related factors, particularly smoking, are estimated to cause one third of all cancer cases. Obesity and too little physical activity are other risk factors. Prevention is important, but we need to look at this from another angle. Two thirds of all cancers have other causes than life style, childhood cancers is one example. Ageing is in itself a major risk for developing cancer.

Few disease areas see a similar wave of new diagnostics and treatments reaching the market. But the costs for development and market release are high, and prices often high.

Studies from countries like Sweden show a strong correlation between a patient’s socio-economic background and the outcome after a cancer diagnosis. As the income gaps are increasing in most countries around the world, the right to equal access to cancer diagnostics and treatments must continue to be part of the public healthcare discussion, in high-income countries as well as in low and middle-income settings.

In May 2017, the World Health Assembly adopted a new resolution on cancer, a recognition of the fact that working on lifestyle prevention is not enough. Member states are asked to launch national cancer plans, including vaccination programs; develop and implement evidence-based protocols for management of cancer care, including access to early diagnosis, screening and essential medicines and other treatments.

Learn more about the public health perspective on cancer: Interview with Uppsala Health Summit Programme Committee Chair, Emeritus Professor Lars Holmgren

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