Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 18th 2015 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, December 18, 2015
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Usha Devi, who was
treated for cervical
cancer, prays at her
house in Mumbai,
India. Cervical cancer
is one of the top four
cancers in the
The world has made a big commitment in recent
years to treat and prevent infectious diseases like
tuberculosis, Aids and malaria. But another threat
to global health is on the rise: Cancer rates are going
up in the developing world.
The majority of cancer cases---57 per cent---now
occur in low- and middle-income countries. And 65
per cent of cancer deaths worldwide occur in these
countries, according to an analysis by the American
Cancer Society. But there s a flip side to that story:
Rates of certain cancers, including cervical cancer,
have gone down in high income countries, according
to the research published this week in Cancer Epi-
demiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
"I wasn t all that surprised by what we found"
says Lindsey Torre, an epidemiologist at the American
Cancer Society who led the research. "We ve been
aware for a few years of the growing cancer trends
in these low and middle income countries."
The study looked at statistics from a number of
sources, including the World Health Organisation,
collected through 2012. All told, there were an esti-
mated 14 million new cancer cases in 2012, the study
Researchers are still trying to work out why cancer
is increasing in poorer countries. "One of the biggest
factors is likely just the growth and aging of the pop-
ulation in these countries," Torre says. The population
in many countries is booming, "...and as maternal
mortality and infectious diseases are becoming less
of a problem, people are living longer, which is great.
But that also means they re living long enough to
The study also highlights the lack of resources or
infrastructure to fight cancers in many poor countries.
Cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer
among women in sub-Saharan and West Africa, can
be easily prevented through vaccines for young men
and women against the sexually transmitted human
papillomavirus, which causes the cancer, and through
And liver cancer, which often occurs in people
infected with the hepatitis B or C virus, is less common
in the US, where most people are vaccinated against
those viruses. But liver cancer is one of the leading
cancers in parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia.
"In poor countries these cancers that are not only
detectable but also treatable, are not caught early
on," says Dr Ami Bhatt, an assistant professor of
medicine and genetics at Stanford University who
wasn t involved in the study.
In some cases, people with treatable conditions
don t have access to the medication they need, Bhatt
says. Two years ago, Bhatt and her colleagues headed
to Botswana to help patients with chronic myelogenous
leukemia---an uncommon blood cancer that s easily
treated with a pill a day. "Due to politics and other
issues, that pill was unavailable in Botswana. So
patients who could live for decades with the right
treatment had their lifespan cut down to less than
Global health groups fought and eventually won
access to the required drugs for Botswana. "I wouldn t
be doing this work if I wasn t optimistic," Bhatt says.
"But I do think it s going to be difficult."
The first step is to recognise that cancer is a huge
problem in rich and poor countries alike, agrees Dr
Corey Casper, head of global oncology at the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. This
latest study is limited by the lack of good record-
keeping in many poor countries, Casper points out.
But cancer is undoubtedly a leading and growing
threat, he says.
Most of the world's
cancer cases are now
in developing countries
"I wasn't all that surprised by
what we found" says Lindsey
Torre, an epidemiologist at
the American Cancer Society
who led the research. "We've
been aware for a few years
of the growing cancer trends
in these low and middle
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