World Cancer Day: Why prevention and early diagnosis is key

In 2018, 9.6 million people worldwide lost their life to cancer – over triple the number of people who died from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined (according to World Health Organization figures). Cancer Research UK predicts that by 2040 there will be 27.5 million new cases of cancer a year if recent trends continue. Between 30-35% of cancers can be prevented through implementation of resource-appropriate strategies on prevention, early detection and treatment. On the 4th of February, thousands of people from across 162 countries will unite for World Cancer Day to fight against the global cancer epidemic and with the aim of achieving a singular goal: 3 in 4 people surviving cancer by 2034.

The open access research and review articles in this blog, in observance of World Cancer Day, have been gathered from several Hindawi journals and focus on the themes of prevention and early detection, while also highlighting the need for equal access to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment globally.

While effective prevention efforts have aided a decrease in global incidence and mortality rates for most cancers, according to Cancer Research UK the global cancer burden rose to 17 million new cases in 2018, affecting 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women. According to the World Health Organisation, of the 9.6 million deaths seen 65% of cancer deaths are happening in the least developed parts of the world. However inequities still exist in higher income countries due to socio-economic




Top 4 cancers worldwide ranked by incidence and mortality in 2018
Cancers by incidenceCancers by mortality
Type of cancerIncidence rateType of cancerMortality rate
Lung2.09 millionLung1.76 million
Breast2.09 millionColorectal862,000
Colorectal1.80 millionStomach783,000
Prostate1.28 millionLiver782,000

Lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers continue to be the most common in men, while lung, breast, and colorectal cancers are most common in women. Combined these 4 cancers account for 45% of all cancer deaths globally. This blog will explore some of the factors behind the declining mortality rates seen in recent years while exploring further research and action required in the prevention and diagnosis of the 4 most commonly occurring cancers.

Lung Cancer

Incidence and mortality rates associated with lung cancer have dropped in recent years due to a decline in the number of smokers globally. While lung cancer is partially attributed to smoking, a study published in International Journal of Surgical Oncology showed that incidental findings of lung cancer were not uncommon amongst non smokers. However, this group saw lower mortality rates from the disease.

Related articles:

Clinical Characteristics and Prognosis of Incidentally Detected Lung Cancers

Breast Cancer

Reductions in breast cancer mortality rates, especially in recent years, have primarily been attributed to improvements in early detection. Self breast examination is considered the most cost-effective approach to early breast cancer detection. However, many published studies have highlighted discrepancies in knowledge with regards to breast self examination in females from lower socioeconomic areas, such as Southwestern Cameroon, Ghana and Ethiopia. These studies highlight the need for education of women in these areas to assist with breast abnormality detection prior to symptoms appearing.

In order to develop and disseminate better prevention strategies and diagnostics, it is necessary for us to improve our understanding of the population at risk for breast cancer. A recent study compared and contrasted the clinical characteristics of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) and non-TNBC patients, identifying genetic and non-genetic factors which were positively associated with TNBC.

Related articles:

A Community-Based Assessment of Knowledge and Practice of Breast Self-Examination and Prevalence of Breast Disease in Southwest Cameroon

Comparative Assessment of Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice of Breast Self-Examination among Female Secondary and Tertiary School Students in Ghana

Practices of Breast Self-Examination and Associated Factors among Female Debre Berhan University Students

Clinical Characteristics in Patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Mortality rates from colorectal cancer have declined since 1970 due to increased screening and treatment advances, however, the death rate among adults younger than 55 increased by 1% per year between 2006 and 2015. A recent paper published in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology explored the demographic, clinicopathological and socioeconomic characteristics, and treatments received among a young population below the age of 50. This was undertaken as a first step towards understanding the increased incidence in this younger population and the potential mechanisms of the young-onset disease.

Related articles:

Patterns of Sociodemographic and Clinicopathologic Characteristics of Stages II and III Colorectal Cancer Patients by Age: Examining Potential Mechanisms of Young-Onset Disease

Prostate Cancer

Despite a decline in mortality rates from prostate cancer between 1993 to 2015, a lack of adequate screening tools, due to concerns of overdiagnosis using a PSA blood test, has led to fewer cases being detected. However, it still remains the 4th most common cancer, having affected 1.28 million people in 2018. A recent paper published in Prostate Cancer explores a potential diagnostic tool relying on detecting a combination of changes in the blood in order to reduce the rates of overdiagnosis, while ensuring that cases of this cancer are being detected. 

While an improvement in early diagnostics will assist with effective treatment and an improved quality of life in patients, the American Association for Cancer Research has estimated that obesity and nutrition may account for approximately one third of cancer cases. Micronutrient and macronutrient intake plus consumption of certain food groups has been associated with increased or reduced risks of various cancers. An article published in Prostate Cancer examined the association between grain intake and aggressiveness of prostate cancer in African Americans and European Americans, seeing an inverse association between dietary fibre intake and cancer aggression in both populations.

Related articles

Biomarkers of Prostatic Cancer: An Attempt to Categorize Patients into Prostatic Carcinoma, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or Prostatitis Based on Serum Prostate Specific Antigen, Prostatic Acid Phosphatase, Calcium, and Phosphorus

Intake of Grains and Dietary Fiber and Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness by Race

Diet and Cancer

It has since been proven that numerous elements of our diet can have an influence on our risk of developing cancer providing a route for preventative methods to be implemented on a global level. Advice from Cancer Research UK provides the public with information on how to consume a diet that will keep the individual at a healthy weight, reducing their risk of cancer. This information provides the public with 5 simple recommended guidelines to implement into their daily diet:

  • Try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Eating more fruit and vegetables can potential reduce the risk of developing mouth, throat and lung cancers.

  • Eating more whole grain foods

High fibre foods can reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as bowel and colorectal cancers.

  • Eating less processed and red meat

Reducing consumption of processed and red meat has been shown to reduce the risk of bowel cancer, and possibly stomach and pancreatic cancers.

  • Eating less salt

While cutting down on salt is good for your overall health, food preserved using salt may also increase the risk of stomach cancer.

  • Eating less high-calorie food

Consumption of high-calorie foods and drinks does not have a direct link to cancer risk. However, they are associated with weight gain and an unhealthy diet. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, being overweight and obese has been linked to an increased risk of at least 11 cancers, including liver, prostate, ovarian, gallbladder, kidney, colorectal, esophageal, postmenopausal breast, pancreatic, endometrial and gastric cancer. A review published in the Journal of Obesity explored the underlying pathogenic links between obesity and cancer susceptibility.

Related articles:

Obesity as a Major Risk Factor for Cancer

Tumor Angiogenesis as a Target for Dietary Cancer Prevention

While effective prevention efforts have been put in place in recent years, no single person, organisation or country is going to beat cancer by themselves. World Cancer Day aims to prevent millions of deaths by raising awareness, educating people about cancer and pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease.

While we have expanded our knowledge of cancer on a huge scale in recent years, witnessing extraordinary breakthroughs in research into cancer diagnosis and treatment, the more we know about cancer, the more we can progress to reduced risk factors, increase sustainable prevention strategies globally, reduce inequities in poorer countries, and improve early cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, it is clear that we can all do one thing to start defeating this epidemic today – take action. Whether by assessing your diet, practicing self examination or attending regular tests which could allow for early detection, taking action today is the best way to help in the fight against cancer.

Lizzie Anderson is a Publishing Editor at Hindawi. This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.