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The aim of this global initiative is to raise cancer awareness, promote education and prevention and mobilise individuals and organisations to take action against the disease

Every year on February 4th, World Cancer Day serves as a poignant reminder of the global battle against one of humanity’s most formidable foes: cancer. It’s a day to reflect on the progress made in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and care, as well as to raise awareness about the disease’s impact on individuals and communities worldwide.

Cancer knows no boundaries—it affects people of all ages, genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. With over 19 million new cancer cases diagnosed globally in 2020 alone, and projections indicating a continued rise, the magnitude of its impact is undeniable. But behind the statistics lie countless stories of courage, resilience, and hope.

The primary goal of World Cancer Day is to educate and empower individuals to take action—whether through adopting healthier lifestyles, undergoing regular screenings, or supporting research and innovation in cancer treatment. Prevention and early detection are crucial in the fight against cancer, significantly improving survival rates and enhancing patients’ quality of life.

This day also provides an opportunity to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives to cancer, while celebrating the survivors who have triumphed over the disease and continue to inspire others with their bravery and determination.

Beyond raising awareness, World Cancer Day advocates for equitable access to healthcare and oncology treatments worldwide. Disparities in cancer care exist both between developed and developing countries and within individual nations. It’s imperative to take action to ensure that all patients have access to essential healthcare services and medications needed to combat this disease.

On this World Cancer Day, let us collectively commit to joining forces in the fight against cancer. Whether through education, prevention efforts, support for research, or advocacy for patients’ rights, each of us can make a meaningful contribution to creating a world where cancer is no longer feared. Together, we can make a difference and work towards a future where cancer is a manageable condition rather than a devastating diagnosis.

2024: Together, we challenge those in power

Last year’s campaign on this day was about bringing attention to a higher level. Now, with the knowledge and unity of the community, this year’s theme calls for a commitment from country leaders to prioritise cancer, create innovative strategies designed to tackle inequality, and invest our resources to achieve a just and cancer-free world. Therefore, eliminating health inequalities by addressing their root causes, ensuring that everyone has access to quality health services when, where and how they need them.

Most common types of cancer

he most common types of cancer can vary depending on factors such as geographical location, age, gender, and lifestyle. However, some types of cancer are more prevalent globally. Here are some of the most common types of cancer worldwide:

Breast Cancer: Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. It develops in the breast tissue and can occur in both men and women, although it is much more common in women. Early detection through screening, such as mammograms, can significantly improve outcomes.

Lung Cancer: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide for both men and women. It develops in the lungs and is strongly associated with tobacco smoking, although non-smokers can also develop the disease.

Colorectal Cancer: Colorectal cancer, which includes cancers of the colon and rectum, is among the most common cancers worldwide. Risk factors include a diet high in red and processed meats, lack of physical activity, obesity, and smoking. Screening tests such as colonoscopies can help detect colorectal cancer early when treatment is most effective.

Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, particularly in older men. It develops in the prostate gland and usually grows slowly. Early detection through screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests can help identify prostate cancer at an early stage when treatment is most successful.

Lymphoma: Lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common and includes various subtypes with different characteristics and treatment approaches.

Skin Cancer: Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer globally. The two main types are melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma). Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds is a significant risk factor for skin cancer.

Bladder Cancer: Bladder cancer develops in the bladder, the organ that stores urine. It is more common in older adults and is associated with risk factors such as smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, and chronic bladder inflammation.

Stomach Cancer: Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is among the most common cancers worldwide, particularly in Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. Risk factors include infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, smoking, a diet high in salted, smoked, or pickled foods, and a family history of stomach cancer.

These are some of the most common types of cancer globally, but it’s important to note that there are many other types of cancer, each with its own risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Early detection through screening and awareness of risk factors can help reduce the burden of cancer and improve outcomes for those affected by the disease.

Main causes of cancer

Cancer is a complex disease, and its development is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. While the exact causes of cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer and individual risk factors, some of the main factors known to contribute to cancer development include:

Tobacco Use: Smoking tobacco, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke, is one of the leading causes of cancer worldwide. Tobacco smoke contains numerous carcinogens that can damage DNA and increase the risk of developing various types of cancer, including lung, throat, mouth, and bladder cancer.

Diet and Nutrition: Poor dietary habits, including a diet high in processed foods, red meat, and saturated fats, and low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer. Additionally, obesity, which is often linked to unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity, is a known risk factor for several types of cancer.

Physical Activity and Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of regular physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle have been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, boosts the immune system, and reduces inflammation, all of which can lower cancer risk.

Exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation: Exposure to UV radiation from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds increases the risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.

Exposure to Carcinogens: Exposure to carcinogenic substances in the environment or workplace can increase the risk of cancer. This includes exposure to asbestos, benzene, arsenic, radon, and certain chemicals used in manufacturing and agriculture.

Alcohol Consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including liver, breast, colorectal, and esophageal cancer. Even moderate alcohol consumption can contribute to cancer risk.

Infections: Certain infections caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Examples include human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (linked to cervical and other cancers), hepatitis B and C virus infections (linked to liver cancer), and Helicobacter pylori infection (linked to stomach cancer).

Genetic Factors: Inherited genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. While genetic factors play a role in some cases, the majority of cancers are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It’s important to note that while these factors can increase the risk of developing cancer, not everyone exposed to these factors will develop the disease. Additionally, many cancers can be prevented or detected early through lifestyle modifications, screening, and vaccination against certain infections. Early detection and timely treatment can significantly improve outcomes for individuals diagnosed with cancer.