Tumors, the impact on the world is growing: lung cancer remains the ‘big killer’

WHO data collected in 115 countries: 20 million cases and 9.7 million deaths in one year. But the number of survivors of the disease is also increasing

In 2022, approximately 20 million new cases of cancer and 9.7 million deaths related to the disease occurred worldwide. The impact of cancer globally is growing, but so is the number of ‘survivors’: it is estimated that 53.5 million people are alive within 5 years of diagnosis. About one in 5 people develop cancer in their lifetime, and about one in 9 men and one in 12 women die from the disease. This is the picture drawn by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which published the latest estimates on the global incidence of cancer in view of World Cancer Day (Sunday 4 February). For the occasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) also published the results of a survey conducted in 115 countries, which shows how the majority of these do not adequately finance priority oncology and palliative care services, as part of the universal health coverage (UHC).

The investigation: lung cancer ‘big killer’, then breast cancer

The IARC estimates are based on the best data sources available in countries in 2022, and also highlight – it explains in a note – the disproportionate impact on disadvantaged populations and the urgent need to address cancer-related inequalities around the world. Data available on the Global Cancer Observatory shows that 10 types of cancer collectively account for about two-thirds of new cases and deaths recorded globally for 2022. Number one? It is lung cancer, the most common tumor worldwide with 2.5 million new cases, equal to 12.4% of the total. This is followed by female breast cancer (2.3 million cases, 11.6%) and then colorectal cancer (1.9 million cases, 9.6%), prostate cancer (1.5 million of cases, 7.3%) and that of the stomach (970 thousand cases, 4.9%).

Lung cancer is confirmed as the ‘big killer’, the main cause of death from cancer (1.8 million deaths, 18.7% of total cancer deaths), followed by colorectal cancer (900 thousand deaths, 9 .3%), liver cancer (760 thousand deaths, 7.8%), breast cancer (670 thousand deaths, 6.9%) and stomach cancer (660 thousand deaths, 6.8%). The reappearance of lung cancer as the most common cancer, experts interpret, is probably related to persistent tobacco use in Asia.

Patient gender and geography change the scenarios

Some sex differences in incidence and mortality compared to the overall total were found for both sexes: for women, the most commonly diagnosed cancer and leading cause of oncological death was breast cancer, while for men it was the one in the lungs. Just as breast cancer was the most common cancer in women in the vast majority of countries (157 out of 185). For men, prostate and colorectal cancers were the second and third most common cancers, while liver and colorectal cancers were the second and third most common causes of cancer death. For women, lung and colorectal cancer were second and third in both new cases and deaths.

Geography also changes scenarios. For example, cervical cancer was the eighth most common cancer globally and the ninth leading cause of cancer-related death, with 661,044 new cases and 348,186 deaths. But it is the most common cancer in women in 25 countries, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa. An aspect that pushes the WHO to ask to intensify efforts in the strategy for the elimination of this tumor.