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The threat of cancer is growing in the developing world. The majority of cases now occur in low and middle income countries and NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, that trend is only expected to get worse.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: As developing nations modernize, they're increasingly being hit with one of the curses of affluence, cancer. Researchers from the World Health Organization in the World Cancer Report 2014 say that the global burden of cancer is shifting away from North America and Europe and onto developing nations - Latin America, Africa and Asia.,
In 2012, roughly 60 percent of all cancer cases were in low and middle income countries. The health systems in these countries are often unprepared to diagnose and treat such complicated conditions and this leads to far higher death rates than in the developed world. Dr. Bernard Stewart, one of the editors of the report, calls cancer in the developing world a time bomb.
He says many cancer treatment options used in the West simply aren't available or are way too expensive for poor countries.
BERNARD STEWART: That drug treatment passes (unintelligible) it's simply not an option for the vast majority of the population of most low income countries.
BEAUBIEN: He says the good news is that lessons from the West on early screening and prevention can be applied to help stem the expansion of cancer in other parts of the world.
STEWART: There is actions that can be taken in low or middle income countries - that is to say, in particular, vaccinations in hepatitis B and C and vaccination is possible against human papillomavirus.
BEAUBIEN: Globally, people living in North American and Europe are still the most likely to get cancer, but the sheer volume of people living in China means that more people now die of cancer there than anywhere else. Despite high rates of smoking, China's rate of lung cancer is actually lower than that of most European nations. Death rates from stomach and liver cancer in China, however, are the highest in the world.
There's great diversity in terms of what forms of cancers strike where. Breast cancer is the leading form among women across the globe, yet in some African nations, cervical cancer is the most problematic. For men, prostate cancer is the most deadly form, yet in Namibia the leader is esophagus cancer. And while cancer is a growing problem in developing nations, the group most likely to get hit by cancer anywhere on the planet is in the U.S., African-American men.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News.
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