3 key takeaways for radiologists from new report on the global burden of cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization, has published updated estimates on the global burden of cancer. The data, available on the IARC website, covers 36 different types of cancer in a total of 185 countries.

These are three key takeaways from the report that seem especially relevant to radiologists and other radiology professionals:

1. The global cancer burden is on the rise in 2018

According to IARC estimates, the global cancer burden climbed to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. One in five men in the world develop cancer in their lifetime, and that number is one in six for women. In addition, 43.8 million people in the world are alive within five years of receiving a cancer diagnosis.

“The increasing cancer burden is due to several factors, including population growth and ageing as well as the changing prevalence of certain causes of cancer linked to social and economic development,” according to an IARC press release. “This is particularly true in rapidly growing economies, where a shift is observed from cancers related to poverty and infections to cancers associated with lifestyles more typical of industrialized countries.”

Drops in the incidence rates of some cancers—including lung cancer among men in Northern Europe and North America—is credited to “effective prevention efforts” by healthcare providers in those areas.

2. Lung and breast cancer are responsible for 2.1 million new cancer diagnoses in 2018

The IARC calls lung cancer, breast cancer (among women) and colorectal cancer the three “major cancer types” of 2018. The three cancers, together, are responsible for one-third of all cancer incidence across the world.

Lung cancer and breast cancer—two cancers imaging providers are especially familiar with—are responsible for most new cases this year, according to the organization’s estimates. Those two cancers alone are expected to lead to 2.1 million new diagnoses in 2018, which is 11 percent of the total cancer incidence burden in the world.

In addition, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Lung cancer is the most common among men.

While lung cancer is responsible for the largest number of deaths—“because of the poor prognosis for this cancer worldwide”—breast cancer is fifth on that list, showing the impact of improved patient care in much of the world.

3. Statistics related to lung cancer among women are especially troubling

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in a total of 28 countries, according to the IARC data. Imaging leaders have been exploring ways to improve lung cancer screening in recent years, and these numbers suggest that should remain a priority moving forward.

“These new figures highlight that much remains to be done to address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally and that prevention has a key role to play,” IARC Director Christopher Wild, PhD, said in the statement. “Efficient prevention and early detection policies must be implemented urgently to complement treatments in order to control this devastating disease across the world.”