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  • A woman undergoes a free mammogram inside Peru's first mobile unit for breast cancer detection.

    A woman undergoes a free mammogram inside Peru's first mobile unit for breast cancer detection. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 November 2016

As the population ages and grows the highest toll will be among women in poor and middle-income countries, report warns. ​

Cancer will kill 5.5 million women—about the population of Denmark—per year by 2030, a staggering new report by the American Cancer Society presented Tuesday at the World Cancer Congress in Paris warned.

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It would be a near 60 percent increase in deaths in less than two decades. Most fatalities will stem from cancers which are largely preventable.

The review “highlights the large geographic inequality in availability of resources and preventive measures and treatment to combat the growing burden of cancer,” Sally Cowal, senior vice president of global health at the ACS, told AFP.

In poorer countries a much smaller proportion of cancer cases are diagnosed and treated than in rich ones, and a much bigger group dies.

The relative cancer burden is growing for developing countries as people live longer due to better basic health care.

Women in these countries are also increasingly exposed to known cancer risk factors “associated with rapid economic transition,” said Cowal, including “physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, obesity, and reproductive factors” such as postponing motherhood.

“Due to these changes, cancers that were once common only in high-income countries are becoming more prevalent,” said the report entitled “The Global Burden of Cancer in Women.”

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 6.7 million new cancer cases and 3.5 million deaths among women worldwide in 2012.

Of these, 56 per cent of cases and 64 per cent of deaths were in less developed countries.

“These numbers are expected to increase to 9.9 million cases and 5.5 million deaths among females annually by 2030 as a result of the growth and ageing of the population,” said the new report.

The biggest concentration is in eastern Asia, with 1.7 million cases and a million deaths in 2012, mainly in China.

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The report said the highest ratio of cancer cases per population group are still reported in high-income countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia, but this was partly due to better access to screening and detection.

Deaths, however, were proportionally much higher in low- and middle-income countries with reduced access to diagnosis and treatment. The countries with the highest death rate were Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea.

Breast and lung cancer are the two most common types in both rich and poor nations, with colorectal cancer the number three killer in developed countries, and cervical cancer in less developed ones.

Cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccination against the cancer-causing Human papillomavirus (HPV), and can be easily detected through regular Papanicolaou (pap) test screens.

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