American Cancer Society report released on World Cancer Day

January 08, 2016

The report says despite this growing burden, cancer continues to receive low public health priority in Africa, largely because of limited resources and other pressing public health problems, including communicable diseases such as AIDS/HIV infection, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Cancers related to infectious agents (cervix, liver, Kaposi sarcoma, urinary bladder) are among the dominant forms of cancer in Africa. In 2008, cervical cancer accounted for 21 percent of the total newly diagnosed cancers in females and liver cancer accounted for 11 percent of the total cancer cases in males.

A majority of cancers in Africa are thought to be diagnosed at advanced stage of the disease largely because of lack of screening and early detection services as well as limited awareness of the early signs and symptoms of cancers among the public and health care providers. Stigma associated with a diagnosis of cancer also plays a role in late stage presentation in most parts of Africa.

Survival after a diagnosis of cancer is much poorer in Africa than in the developed world for most cancer types, especially those cancers affected by screening and treatment. For example, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is less than 50 percent in The Gambia, Uganda, and Algeria, compared to nearly 90 percent in the United States.

While tobacco use is the most preventable cause of cancer death worldwide, accounting for 20 percent of cancer deaths, it accounts for only about 6 percent of cancer deaths in Africa. The smaller contribution of tobacco use to cancer deaths in Africa reflects the early stage of the tobacco epidemic and low smoking prevalence, especially in women. However, cigarette consumption is increasing in many African countries due to the adoption of behaviors associated with economic growth and increased marketing by tobacco companies. The smoking pattern among teens is even more disturbing. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, in some African countries, the smoking prevalence among boys is higher than that among adults. Although a majority of African countries have ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, few have implemented or enforced tobacco control programs according to the guidelines.

This September, the United Nations will hold a high-level meeting to develop a global response to the growing threat of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. This meeting, supported by the United States government, is only the second meeting the United Nations has held on a global health issue.

Source: American Cancer Society