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PAHO seeks to prevent breast and cervical cancer, which claim some 120,000 lives each year in the AmericasRepresentatives of different sectors will develop action plan to reduce cancers that affect some 400,000 women annually in the region

Washington, D.C., 4 February 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — With the goal of reducing deaths from breast and cervical cancer in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) this week is bringing together representatives of governments, international organizations, academic institutions, civil society, and the private sector to develop a plan of action for screening, early diagnosis, education and treatment for these cancers and for expanded vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV).

Some 400,000 women are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer each year in the Americas, and some 120,000 die from these diseases. Both types of cancer are preventable and treatable through screening, early diagnosis and proper treatment.

“For a public health problem of this magnitude, and given that we have the know-how and technology to save lives, we urgently need all sectors of society to work together to help ensure equitable access to cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “That is why today, we are galvanizing the support of the international health community to jointly accelerate breast and cervical cancer prevention and control in the Americas.”

“The timing for this endeavor, the Women’s Cancer Initiative: a joint commitment to save lives, is right,” said Dr. Etienne. “In addition to the Political Declaration of the U.N. High Level Meeting on NCDs in 2011, the recently adopted WHO Global Monitoring Framework for NCDs calls for a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025. It has provided governments with tangible targets and indicators for cancer incidence, cervical cancer screening, and HPV vaccination. It is up to those of us gathered here today to guide efforts and investments to support governments to achieve these targets and indicators.”

The multi-year plan of action that will result from this week’s meeting will include advocacy and communications to mobilize women, communities and stakeholders; improvements in health service capacity for breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care; scaled up access to HPV vaccination; and expanded research.

Under the tagline “Cancer – Did You Know…?” this year’s World Cancer Day (Feb. 4) seeks to dispel common myths and misconceptions about cancer, for example, that it is a disease of rich countries but not poor ones or that “cancer is a death sentence.” Participants in this week’s meeting will discuss ways to counter these and other cancer myths.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.



Media Contacts: 

Leticia Linn, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Tel. + 202 974 3440, Mobile +1 202 701 4005, Sebastián Oliel, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Phone +1 202 974 3459, Mobile 202 316 5679, Knowledge Management and Communications, PAHO/WHO–


Myths and truths about cancer
  • Myth 1: Cancer is just a health issue.
  • Truth: Cancer has wide-reaching social, economic, development, and human rights implications.
  • Cancer is both a cause and an outcome of poverty. The high cost of treatment adversely impacts families’ ability to earn an income. Poverty and the lack of access to education and health care increase the risk of getting cancer.
  • Myth 2: Cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly, and developed countries.
  • Truth: Cancer is a global epidemic affecting all ages and socioeconomic groups, with developing countries bearing a disproportionate burden.
  • Cervical cancer is just one example of the disproportionate burden borne in the developing world. In fact, mortality from cervical cancer is almost seven times higher in Latin America and the Caribbean than in the United States and Canada.
  • Myth 3: Cancer is a death sentence.
  • Truth: Many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured.
  • With few exceptions, early-stage cancers are less lethal and more treatable than late-stage cancers, so cancer prevention and early diagnosis through improved screening programs and access to health systems are vitally important.
  • Myth 4: Cancer is my fate.
  • Truth: Improving diet, increasing physical activity, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight could prevent about a third of the most common types of cancer.
  • More than 250,000 people in the Americas die of tobacco-related cancers each year. 
  • Vaccinating adolescent girls against HPV would prevent some 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 17:07

The majority of most frequent cancers worldwide can be prevented (01/30/2015)

In marking this year’s World Cancer Day, PAHO/WHO is promoting the theme that "preventing and controlling cancer is not beyond us’’.  This message of optimism focuses on the fact that there are cost-effective interventions, feasible for all resource settings, that can reduce cancer deaths.A recent scientific report on the causes of cancer,  published in the journal Science on 2 January, 2015 by Dr Cristian Tomasetti and Dr Bert Vogelstein, suggests that random mutations, or "bad luck" are major contributors to cancer. Yet, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization´s specialized cancer agency has shown strong disagreement with the conclusion of this report.

IARC experts note the serious contradiction in this report with the extensive body of epidemiological evidence on the causes of cancer, as well as a number of methodological limitations and biases in the analysis presented in the report. Population risk factors are well known for many common cancers, and can be modified through healthy public policies that support healthy lifestyles.

Furthermore, international epidemiological research has shown that most cancer that are frequent in one population are relatively rare in another and that these patterns vary over time. These observations are characteristic of many common cancers and are consistent with a major contribution of environmental and lifestyle exposures, as opposed to genetic variation or chance (“bad luck”).Finally, the IARC calls to continue the search for causes of cancer as well as investing in prevention measures for those cancers whose risk factors are known.

Read the IARC press release


New publication: Early Diagnosis of Childhood Cancer (12/11/2014)

AIEPI cancer childhood ENGIn many countries, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children over 1 year of age. Fortunately, great progress has been made in the treatment of childhood cancer in recent years. While pediatric cancer is not preventable, it can be detected early and treated effectively. In this regard, children with cancer should be referred as early as possible to specialized health facilities, where they can be treated by pediatric oncologists.

PAHO Observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month (10/20/2014)

Breast cancer can be detected early and treated effectively.  This is the message PAHO is promoting throughout the month of October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  

Leaders in the Americas show political commitment to change the history of women's cancer (10/10/2014)

“Confessions” reveal cancer survivors’ stories (02/06/2014)

Dispelling myths can help prevent cancer deaths (02/03/2014)


Preventing cervical cancer in Argentina (05/28/2013)

Innovative Strategies for Cervical and Breast Cancer Control: a regional meeting to share experiences and lessons learned (04/18/2013)

eHealth Experience: Get The Message Campaign in the Caribbean (02/24/2013)

Women’s Cancer Initiative: A joint commitment to save lives (02/10/2013)

New multi-sector partnership seeks to reduce cervical and breast cancer in the Americas (02/08/2013)

Derribando mitos sobre el cáncer (02/05/2013)

PAHO seeks to prevent breast and cervical cancer, which claim some 120,000 lives each year in the Americas (02/05/2013)

Cuba – Battling cancer with biotechnology (02/03/2013)

World Cancer Day, 4 February 2013 (02/02/2013)


Cervical Cancer Experts gather to develop new guidelines (11/06/2012)

Partnerships are Critical for an Effective Cancer Prevention and Control, Dr. Andrus Says (08/28/2012)

World Cancer Day: "Together it is possible" (02/03/2012)

Two-thirds of future cancer cases will be in developing countries (02/01/2012)


Physical activity can help reduce risk of some cancers (02/03/2011)


Countries Pledge New Action to Reduce Cervical Cancer Deaths (10/03/2008)

Better Screening, Treatment, and Affordable Vaccines Can Prevent Doubling of Cervical Cancer Deaths (05/29/2008)

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