1. Dimension of the Problem

Cancer takes prematurely (< 75 years of age) over 6 million lives every year: One every 5 seconds!

In 38 industrialized countries , selected as those with "Very High Human Development" (VHHD) with a total population of 989 million, the total cost for cancer is $741 billion/year .

See in the Figure below how cancer death rate relates to other causes of deaths in population with less than 64 years of age in the U.S. and the premature (< 75  year of age) death toll of one million people per year in the four highly industrialized countries in the world.


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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020 as you can see from the numerous world cancer reports prepared by WHO.

As an example the summary of the 2003 and 2008 world cancer reports are provided to show that they are not very different. Both have alarmist news of increasing cancer incidents and deaths that continue to be disseminated year after year without providing a specific program that could give a hope of a real reduction in cancer death and cost.

World Cancer Report 2003  (summary)

"3 April 2003 | GENEVA -- Cancer rates could further increase by 50% to 15 million new cases in the year 2020, according to the World Cancer Report, the most comprehensive global examination of the disease to date. However, the report also provides clear evidence that healthy lifestyles and public health action by governments and health practitioners could stem this trend, and prevent as many as one third of cancers worldwide.

In the year 2000, malignant tumors were responsible for 12 per cent of the nearly 56 million deaths worldwide from all causes. In many countries, more than a quarter of deaths are attributable to cancer. In 2000, 5.3 million men and 4.7 million women developed a malignant tumor and altogether 6.2 million died from the disease. The report also reveals that cancer has emerged as a major public health problem in developing countries, matching its effect in industrialized nations.

The World Cancer Report tells us that cancer rates are set to increase at an alarming rate globally. We can make a difference by taking action today. We have the opportunity to stem this increase. This report calls on Governments, health practitioners and the general public to take urgent action. Action now can prevent one third of cancers, cure another third, and provide good, palliative care to the remaining third who need it, "said Dr. Paul Kleihues, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and co-editor of the World Cancer Report.

The World Cancer Report is a concise manual describing the global burden, the causes of cancer, major types of malignancies, early detection and treatment. The 351-page global report is issued by IARC, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO)."

World Cancer Report 2008 (summary)

"It is estimated that there will be over 12 million people diagnosed with cancer this year. Hardly any family has not been hit by cancer, and when cancer hits it can hit hard. The burden on Society caused by cancer is immense not only in terms of the human suffering of patients and their relatives and friends, but the cost of cancer in economic terms. The strain cancer produces on health professionals and health systems is substantial and growing rapidly.

The World Cancer Report 2008 provides a unique global view of cancer and documents many important features of the global situation. The global cancer burden doubled in the last thirty years of the twentieth century, and it is estimated that this will double again between 2000 and 2020 and nearly triple by 2030. Until recently, cancer was considered a disease of westernised, industrialised countries. Today the situation has changed dramatically, with the majority of the global cancer burden now found in low- and medium-resource countries. The greatest impact of this coming increase will fall on the low- and medium-resource countries, which frequently have a limited health budget and a high background level of communicable disease. Cancer treatment facilities are not universally available and life-saving therapies are frequently unavailable.

The rapid increase in the cancer burden represents a real crisis for public health and health systems worldwide. A major issue for many countries, even among high-resource countries, will be how to find sufficient funds to treat all cancer patients effectively and provide palliative, supportive and terminal care for the large numbers of patients, and their relatives, who will be diagnosed in the coming years. The World Cancer Report 2008 provides a comprehensive overview of cancer for all those working in the field of health-care and research, and the general reader as well. It presents information on cancer patterns, diagnosis, causes and prevention concisely, clearly outlining the growing public health crisis. Simultaneously, there is a clear message of hope: although cancer is a great and growing devastating disease, it is largely preventable.

Current priorities for global cancer control must include a focus on low- and medium-resource countries and the identification, delivery and evaluation of effective cancer control measures. Prevention research is of overwhelming importance. Translational research in its broadest sense is of paramount importance to cancer control, covering the spectrum from translating cutting-edge scientific discovery into new approaches to cancer treatment to translating knowledge of cancer risk factors into changes in population behavior."

Similar figures on cancer incident and death rates are also reported by several magazines such as FORTUNE Magazine in March 22, 2004 (click here for full article).

From the Clifton Leaf's article in FORTUNE Magazine, March 22, 2004:

"This year an additional 1.4 million Americans will have that most frightening of conversations with their doctor. One in two men and one in three women will get the disease during their lifetime. As a veteran Dana-Farber researcher sums up, 'It is as if one World Trade Center tower were collapsing on our society every single day.'

So why aren't we winning this decades-old war on terror -and what can we do now to turn it around? That was the question I asked dozens of researchers, physicians, and epidemiologists at leading cancer hospitals around the country; pharmacologists, biologists, and geneticists at drug companies and research centers; officials at the FDA, NCI, and NIH; fundraisers, activists, and patients.

During three months of interviews in Houston, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other cancer hubs, I met many of the smartest and most deeply committed people I've ever known.

... Yet virtually all these experts offered testimony that, when taken together, describes a dysfunctional 'cancer culture' -a groupthink that pushes tens of thousands of physicians and scientists toward the goal of finding the tiniest improvements in treatment rather than genuine breakthroughs [targeted to a substantial premature cancer death reduction]; that fosters isolated (and redundant) problem solving instead of cooperation; and rewards academic achievement and publication over all else.

At each step along the way from basic science to patient bedside, investigators rely on models that are consistently lousy at predicting success -to the point where hundreds of cancer drugs are thrust into the pipeline, and many are approved by the FDA, even though their proven "activity" has little to do with curing cancer."