The World Health Organization has alarmed the international community with a new report on cancer rates around the world, warning of an incoming "tidal wave" of cancer that will be a human disaster unless urgent efforts are taken against it.
The report, based on the latest statistics on trends in cancer incidence and mortality worldwide, "reveals how the cancer burden is growing at an alarming pace and emphasizes the need for urgent implementation of efficient prevention strategies to curb the disease," according to a press release.
Dr. Bernard Stewart from the University of New South Wales in Australia, one of the editors of the report, noted that prevention had a "crucial role in combating the tidal wave of cancer which we see coming across the world," according to BBC News.
The World Cancer Report 2014, released on Tuesday in sync with World Cancer day, warns that cancer rates are expected to rise significantly in the next 20 years, with new cases growing from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million annually within two decades. Unless prevention rates improve, cancer-related deaths are also expected to rise from 8.2 million a year to 13 million.
"The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being. These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception," said Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Dr. Wild added that despite advances in the field of cancer research, the latest report shows that treatments alone will not be enough to tackle the larger problem. He insisted that greater prevention and early detection are most needed to address the rise in cancer cases worldwide.
Sixty percent of the world's new cancer cases occur in third world countries – Africa and Asia, as well as Central and South America – where there is a lack of early detection and access to treatment.
The report also identified the most common cancers diagnosed worldwide in 2012; lung (13 percent), breast (11.9 percent) and large bowel (9.7 percent) are at the top of the list.
Dr. Stewart noted in a press release for the report that legislation is also a very important factor when combating cancer rates.
"Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behavior, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants," Stewart stressed.
"In low- and middle- income countries, it is critical that governments commit to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans."
In a "Key Facts" sheet, WHO noted that 30 percent of cancer deaths are caused by factors such as high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.
"In relation to alcohol, for example, we're all aware of the acute effects, whether it's car accidents or assaults, but there's a burden of disease that's not talked about because it's simply not recognized, specifically involving cancer," Stewart noted.
"The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labeling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol – those things should be on the agenda."