Unhealthy Western lifestyle linked to rise in cancers
Global cancer rates could increase by as much as 75% by the year 2030 as a result of today’s unhealthy Western lifestyles, a new study has forecast. In the world’s poorest countries, the rise is predicted to be as much as 93%, and would signify a worldwide growth from 12.7 million cancer sufferers in 2008 to 22.2 million within 20 years.
The predictions are based on cancer statistics collected from a total of 184 countries in 2008, compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The statistics show the variation of cancer patterns according to four levels of human development measured on the Human Development Index (HDI) scale. From this, researchers have predicted the likely change to the cancer burden by the year 2030, taking into account predicted population size, ageing and national development.
The types of cancers suffered differ depending on a country’s state of development. Poor countries with a low HDI (such as sub-Saharan Africa) currently experience high rates of infection-linked cancers, such as stomach and cervical cancers, while rich countries with a high HDI (such as the UK) are more affected by cancers related to lifestyle factors, including prostate, breast and bowel cancers.
Modern ‘westernised’ lifestyles have become more sedentary and linked to a rise is convenience food, obesity and smoking levels. As poorer countries begin adopt this unhealthier way of life, they are expected to see sharp rises in the types of cancers associated with it. While a rise in living standards will most likely reduce the occurrence of infection-related cancers, it will simultaneously come with an increase in lifestyle-affected cancers. Currently 40% of the world’s cancers occur in high HDI nations, though they make up only 15% of the global population.
Leader of the study Dr Freddie Bray, said: “Cancer is already the leading cause of death in many high-income countries and is set to become a major cause of morbidity (illness) and mortality in the next decades in every nation of the world. This study serves as an important reference point in drawing attention to the need for global action to reduce the increasing burden of cancer.”