World Cancer Day 2020: International survey reveals unacceptable cancer awareness divide

By - World Healthcare Journal

World Cancer Day 2020: International survey reveals unacceptable cancer awareness divide

Cancer has a major impact on society across the world. According to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), three in five people indicate that they are or have been affected by cancer - either through their personal experiences or through knowing someone directly affected by the disease.

Furthermore, many people worry that they will develop or redevelop cancer within their lifetime. Almost 60 per cent of participants in a new UICC study expressed this feeling, no matter their age, education or income status.

This is not an unfounded fear - around one in two people will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Furthermore, cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide: according to The Global Cancer Observatory, more than 9.5m people died from the disease in 2018.

 “It is unacceptable that millions of people have a greater chance of developing cancer in their lifetime because they are simply not aware of the cancer risks to avoid and the healthy behaviours to adopt – information that many of us take for granted. And this is true around the world,” says Dr Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the UICC.

To mark the 20th anniversary of World Cancer Day, UICC has conducted a worldwide survey of experiences, views, and behaviours around cancer, to better understand how the global population approaches and views the disease.

Held on 4th February since 2000, World Cancer Day encourages awareness of cancer in the international community – with the aim of ending the injustice of preventable, unnecessary suffering due to cancer and lowering the impact that cancer has on our lives.

Awareness of cancer risks

Many people across the globe understand that certain behaviours and lifestyle choices lead to a higher risk of developing cancer. For instance, tobacco use, overexposure to sunlight, and alcohol abuse are widely recognised as causes of cancer and have been for some decades.

However, other instrumental factors in cancer development such as little or no exercise, exposure to certain diseases, and a bad diet are much less widely known, especially so in poorer countries.

Raising awareness of cancer causes

These statistics are quite daunting. With a large proportion of the global population simply not aware that many day-to-day activities and lifestyle choices can cause a higher risk of cancer, governments and health authorities need to act fast to improve knowledge, education, and services around cancer.

This was a sentiment shared by people within the study – an overwhelming 84 per cent of individuals felt that governments should be taking immediate action in regard to cancer, whilst nearly a third of individuals surveyed believed that it is most important for governments to improve the affordability of cancer services.

“To tackle the global cancer burden now and for the future, governments and decision-makers across the international cancer community must come together to ensure that everyone is afforded every opportunity to take control over their cancer risk – no matter their education or income level,” says HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, UICC President.

Pioneering cancer research

However, many governments and research institutions are already increasing their efforts in new treatments for cancer.

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland has recently announced a £300,000 investment into research at Queen’s University Belfast for two of the hardest to treat and lowest survival rate cancers – pancreatic and oesophageal cancer. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer in Northern Ireland is 4.9 per cent, and 18.6 per cent for oesophageal cancer.

Dr Richard Turkington, Oncologist and Cancer Researcher at Queen’s, is spearheading the new research.

“This new work will enable us to drive forward a new era of treatment. If successful it has the potential to save lives both here and across the world,” he says.

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