New Global Burden of Disease study urges increased prevention efforts and vigilance in early detection and treatment.

Lung cancer, cervical cancer, and oesophageal cancer are the three deadliest cancers in South Africa, accounting for 19 160 deaths in 2015, according to a new analysis of 32 cancer groups in 195 countries or territories. In 2015, there were 114 091 new cancer cases in South Africa and 58 237 deaths in total.

Globally, cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases, but the chances of getting cancer and dying from it look radically different depending on where you live.

“The disease burden of cancer is growing in South Africa, and health infrastructure and resource allocation will not be capable of dealing with it unless substantial changes are made and more dedicated funding is realised,” said Prof. Benn Sartorius, a co-author of the study, based in Public Health Medicine at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and also a steering member of the SA MRC/UKZN Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Centre.

“Initiatives such as the Global Burden of Disease Study allow us to track cancer trends in a timely fashion. This will continue to assist countries such as South Africa with regards to cancer burden tracking and planning as we move toward the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030,” says Prof. Sartorius.

The most marked increase in cancer cases between 2005 and 2015 occurred in countries of the lowest development status, where new cases grew by 50 percent. Authors of the study grouped countries based on their Socio-demographic Index (SDI) – a combined measure of education, income, and fertility.

Cancer mortality decreased in many nations over the past decade, but increased in more than 50 countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. These countries include Niger, Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Senegal, where health services needed to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer are often missing.

The most common forms of cancer globally are: breast cancer; lung cancer; and colorectal cancer. Lung and colorectal cancers top the list of those causing the greatest number of deaths, followed by stomach and liver cancers.

In South Africa, breast cancer is the most common cancer for women, but cervical cancer is the deadliest, with 5 406 female deaths in 2015. Other top cancer causes of death for women were breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. For men, prostate cancer fuelled the highest number of new cases, but lung cancer was the number one killer, causing 5 726 male deaths. Prostate, oesophageal, colorectal, and liver cancers were the other leading causes of cancer death for South African men.

Death rates per 100 000 people are rising for the top 10 causes of cancer death in South Africa, with the exceptions of oesophageal and stomach cancer. The most marked increases were displayed by colorectal cancer, with a death rate that rose 31 percent between 1990 and 2015; breast cancer, which grew 35 percent; ovarian cancer, up 41 percent; and the death rate of prostate cancer increased by 45 percent.

In South Africa, cervical cancer was the second leading cancer killer, claiming the lives of 5 400 women in 2015. Countries where liver cancer tops the list of top cancer killers include Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, and Thailand. “The cancer divide is real and growing,” said lead author Christina Fitzmaurice, assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

“The number of new cancer cases is climbing almost everywhere in the world, putting an increasing strain on even the most advanced health systems. But the most rapid and troubling escalation can be seen in countries of lower development status, which can ill afford it.”

Leading causes of cancer deaths in South Africa for both sexes, with number of deaths, 2015

1 Lung 8 515
2 Cervical 5 406
3 Esophageal 5 239
4 Breast 5 180
5 Prostate 4 638
6 Colorectal 4 348
7 Other neoplasms 3 120
8 Liver 2 726
9 Pancreatic 2 708
10 Stomach 2 386


The report was published on 5 December 2016 in JAMA Oncology in a study by the Global Burden of Disease collaboration, an international consortium of 2 000 researchers in nearly 130 nations led by IHME. View the full study at:
http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.5688

Established in 2007, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington in Seattle that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates strategies to address them. IHME makes this information available so that policymakers, donors, practitioners, researchers, and local and global decision-makers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health. For more information, visit www.healthdata.org.

Source: Meropa. Image: Pixabay

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