The American Cancer Society (ACS), has released a report alerting the world of an explosion in cancer deaths among women, with a toll, mainly from breast cancer, of around 5.5 million a year by 2030.
The analysis which was released on Tuesday, at the World Cancer Congress in Paris, says this figure represented a near 60% increase in less than two decades.
Rated as the second highest cause of death after cardiovascular disease, cancer is already killing one in seven women around the world, the report says.
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.
All four of the deadliest cancers – breast, colorectal, lung and cervical cancer – are mostly preventable or can be detected early, when treatment is more successful.
According to the report, as the global population grows and ages, the highest toll will be among women in poor and middle-income countries, and much of it from cancers which are largely preventable.
In poorer countries, a much smaller proportion of cancer cases are diagnosed and treated than in rich ones, while a much bigger group dies. The relative burden is growing for developing countries as people live longer due to better basic healthcare.
Women in these countries are also increasingly exposed to known cancer risk factors “associated with rapid economic transition” such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, obesity, and reproductive factors, including postponing motherhood.
Another report published in the Lancet medical journal on Wednesday, said the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer alone could almost double to 3.2 million a year by 2030 from 1.7 million in 2015.
It warns that he number of diagnoses for cervical cancer could “rise by at least 25% to over 700,000 by 2030”, mainly in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 6.7 million new cancer cases and 3.5 million cancer deaths among women worldwide in 2012. Of these, 56% of cases and 64% of deaths were in less developed countries.
The ACS report says these numbers are expected to increase to 9.9 million cases and 5.5 million cancer deaths among females annually by 2030 as a result of the growth and aging of the population.
The biggest concentration is in eastern Asia, with 1.7 million cases and a million deaths in 2012, mainly in China. 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.