Washington, DC, 29 January 2016 (PAHO/WHO) — With the slogan "We can, I can," the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is joining the international community to commemorate World Cancer Day (February 4) by urging the implementation of public policies that could prevent more than one-third of cancers.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the Americas, where an estimated 2.8 million people are newly diagnosed and 1.3 million people die from this group of diseases each year. The leading cancer types in the region in men are lung, prostate and colorectal cancer, and in women, breast, lung and cervical cancer. If no further action is taken, cancer is projected to result in over 4 million new cases and 1.9 million deaths by 2025, driven in part by the aging population and changing lifestyles.
Experts say, however, that more than one-third of cancers could be prevented by reducing risk factors for cancer and other noncommunicable diseases, particularly smoking, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and harmful use of alcohol.
"To address cancer and save lives, we must strengthen policies and services that effectively prevent and detect cancer in its early stages, and also increase access to treatment and improve cancer patients' quality of life," said Silvana Luciani, PAHO's regional adviser on cancer.
Strategies proposed by PAHO/WHO to reduce the risk of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases include:
- Increasing taxes, restricting access, and warning about the dangers of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol
- Promoting public awareness about healthy diet, physical activity and healthy weight
- Immunizing infants against hepatitis B to prevent liver cancer, and immunizing girls against human papillomavirus to prevent cervical cancer
- Organizing screening programs for cervical cancer and breast cancer to detect them at early stages, when they are more amenable to treatment
"We can, I can"
The goal of World Cancer Day, which is supported by the International Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), is to demonstrate how all people, both collectively and individually, can contribute to reducing the cancer burden.
Individually, people can:
- Talk to their doctor about their risk of cancer and how to reduce it
- Participate in cancer screening and early detection programs
- Adopt healthy lifestyles to reduce cancer risks
- Advocate for better access to cancer screening and treatment services
- If they or a loved one has had cancer, share their experiences with others
- Support people living with cancer
- Understand that early detection and early treatment save lives.
Collectively, we can:
- Prevent cancer
- Detect cancer early and improve treatment results
- Create health-promoting public policies to reduce cancer risk factors
- Ensure palliative care policies and access to pain medications
- Improve access to cancer care and cancer treatments
- Demonstrate the need to invest in cancer detection, treatment and research
- Better understand the causes and risk factors of cancer and how to prevent it
- Train health professionals to join the fight against cancer
- Educate and inform the public about cancer.
PAHO is working with countries in the Americas to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, by 25% by the year 2025.
Through PAHO's NCD plan of action, launched in 2013, PAHO promotes the reduction of tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, promotes healthy diet and increased physical activity, supports the introduction of HPV vaccines and HPV testing to prevent cervical cancer, and promotes improvements in quality and access to early diagnosis of breast cancer.
PAHO also supports improvements in radiotherapy services and access to affordable essential chemotherapy drugs; and promotes the expansion of palliative care policies, programs and opioids for pain relief and symptom management.
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. As the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO, it is part of the United Nations system. It is also a member of the inter-American system.