Cancer

WHO kicks off global initiative to treat children with cancer

In September 2018, the WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer was announced, with the aim of helping countries reach at least a 60% survival rate for children with cancer by 2030, through increased prioritization of childhood cancer and an expanded capacity to deliver best practice in childhood cancer care. Cancer is a leading cause of death for children, with 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries are four times more likely to die of the disease than children in high-income countries. This is because their illnesses are not diagnosed, they are often forced to abandon treatment due to high costs, and health professionals lack specialized training. The Initiative will be achieved with support from a host of partners.

Cancer burden rises to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018

12 September 2018 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) today released the latest estimates on the global burden of cancer. The GLOBOCAN 2018 database, accessible online as part of the IARC Global Cancer Observatory, provides estimates of incidence and mortality in 185 countries for 36 types of cancer and for all cancer sites combined. An analysis of these results, published today in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, highlights the large geographical diversity in cancer occurrence and the variations in the magnitude and profile of the disease between and within world regions.

World Cancer Day 2018

A doctor examines an X-ray snapshot of breast cancer, Columbia
WHO/PAHO /Carlos Gaggero

Nearly every family in the world is touched by cancer, which is now responsible for almost one in six deaths globally. On World Cancer Day (4 February) WHO highlights that cancer no longer needs to be a death sentence, as the capacity exists to reduce its burden and improve the survival and quality of life of people living with the disease.

Feature story

A girl, accompanied by her mother, receives counselling on HPV vaccination and prevention of cervical cancer in Seoul.
Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

2 February 2018 – The Republic of Korea is demonstrating how it is possible, through investment and expanded universal health coverage, to reduce illness and death through cervical cancer prevention and control, also a key focus of World Cancer Day on 4 February.

World's health ministers renew commitment to cancer prevention and control

WHO/Chris Black

On 30th May 2017, the 70th World Health Assembly adopted a draft resolution on cancer prevention and control with 18 sponsors and more than 40 Member States and 11 NGOs speaking in support of the resolution. During its deliberation, there was broad consensus that cancer is a growing public health concern which requires increased attention, prioritization and funding.

Guide to cancer early diagnosis

WHO has developed a Guide to cancer early diagnosis, to help policy-makers and programme managers address barriers to and delays in cancer care. By doing so, access to timely cancer diagnosis and treatment can be improved for all.

fact buffet

9.6 millionpeople worldwide are estimated to die from cancer in 2018

Global Health Observatory

US$1.16 trillionis the estimated total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010.

Key facts about cancer

30-50%of cancers could be prevented.

Read the fact file about cancer

What is cancer?

Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases characterized by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries that can then invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs. Other common terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body and has many anatomic and molecular subtypes that each require specific management strategies.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is estimated to account for 9.6 million death in 2018. Lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer are the most common types of cancer in men, while breast, colorectal, lung, cervix and thyroid cancer are the most common among women.

Cancer Prevention

According to current evidence, between 30% and 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, including avoiding tobacco products, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly and addressing infection-related risk factors.


Cancer Management

To reduce the significant disability, suffering and deaths caused by cancer worldwide, effective and affordable programmes in early diagnosis, screening, treatment, and palliative care are needed. Treatment options may include surgery, medicines and/or radiotherapy; treatment planning should be guided by tumour type, stage and available resources and informed by the preference of the patient. Palliative care, which focuses on improving the quality of life of patients and their families, is an essential components of cancer care. Accelerated action is needed to improve cancer care, achieve global targets to reduce deaths from cancer and provide health care for all consistent with universal health coverage.


About the cancer control programme

The key mission of WHO’s work in cancer control is to promote national cancer control policies, plans and programmes that are harmonized with strategies for noncommunicable diseases and other related health concerns. Our core functions are to set norms and standards for cancer control including the development of evidence-based prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment and palliative care programmes as well as to promote monitoring and evaluation through registries and research that are tailored to the local disease burden and available resources.