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

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.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, with 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2012. The annual number of new cases is projected to rise from 14.1 million in 2012 to 21.6 million in 2030. Around 75% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where the number of cancer cases is rising most rapidly. In addition, the economic impact of cancer is significant; in 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion, threatening economies at all income levels as well as causing financial catastrophe for individuals and families.

The resolution WHA A70/A/CONF./9 "Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach" posits that such an approach to cancer prevention and control is required if governments are to achieve related Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030, namely target 3.4 to reduce premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, by one third and target 3.8 to achieve universal health coverage.

Dr Etienne Krug, Director of the WHO Department for Management of NCDs, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention said, "The message today is clear. Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone anywhere. The capacity exists to reduce the burden of cancer and improve the survival and quality of life of people with cancer. WHO is pleased to have a renewed mandate to support countries to ensure access to cancer care for all."

The resolution lays out a clear road map for stakeholders to realize the potential for prevention, early diagnosis, prompt treatment and palliative care for people with cancer. Recommended actions for Member States include: developing and implementing a national cancer control plan with a focus on equity and access; reducing risks for cancer through strategies such as imposing higher taxes and tobacco and alcohol and promoting access to the human papillomavirus vaccination; strengthening health systems to ensure early diagnosis and accessible, affordable and high-quality care for all cancer patients; ensuring that workforces have the appropriate competencies and skills; and improving data to inform decision-making.

The WHO Secretariat is requested to provide the technical tools and assistance required to achieve the above; reinforce efforts to strengthen the policy environment linked to NCDs, including increasing human papillomavirus and hepatitis B vaccination coverage; and support data collection and analysis through cancer registries and the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework to assist with cancer prevention and control planning and quality assurance. The resolution also calls for the development of a global report on cancer containing evidence-informed guidance for scaling up cancer prevention and control. The report will be prepared jointly by all relevant parts of the WHO Secretariat including WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer by the end of 2019.

Member States will next report on progress in achieving implementation of the road map of national commitments for the prevention and control of cancer at the Third High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases to be held in 2018.

Related links