Burden of Cancer in Low Resource Settings: An Analysis

Posted by On January 5, 2017

On December 15th, the Journal of American Medical Association-Oncology (JAMA) released, “Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived with Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-years for 32 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2015: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study” by Global Burden of Disease Collaboration, Christina Fitzmaurice, MD, MPH, Mohsen Naghavi, PhD, et cal. The JAMA analysis is eye-opening — it states that there were 17.5 million cases of cancer worldwide with 8.7 million deaths.   Globally the incidence of breast cancer ranked number one and cervical cancer ranked as number ten, dropping from the ninth leading cause of cancer; on the African continent, this is a very different story – Cervical cancer ranks as number two behind breast cancer.   

chartThe contrast is even more stark when compared across the sociodemographic index.  In countries that lack the health infrastructure to treat cancer, cervical cancer ranks as the second leading cause of cancer deaths compare to those countries that have the health infrastructure to treat cancer. The authors noted that as part of the reduction of the incidence of infectious disease and increase in chronic, degenerative diseases, cancer incidence is expected to increase in the future, further straining healthcare resources.  According to the study, between 2005 and 2015, cancer cases increased by 33%, with population aging contributing 16%, population growth 13%, and changes in age-specific rates contributing 4%.  Given the rise in cancer incidence due to epidemiological and demographic transition, understanding the local burden of cancer is of the utmost importance.  Therefore, appropriate allocation of resources for cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and curative and palliative care requires detailed knowledge of the local burden of cancer.  

The findings of the JAMA analysis highlight an unmet need for cancer prevention efforts, including screenings and vaccination.  Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer, has been shown to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer when uptake of the vaccine is successful. In high-income countries that have screen and treat programs, these programs have been shown to have an effect on reducing mortality from cervical cancer.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and its partners work on a full continuum of interventions to prevent and treat cervical cancer – from prevention to palliative care. These efforts include vaccinating girls against HPV, increasing access to care through community outreach, training and equipping healthcare providers, and screening and treating women for cancer using effective and low-cost methods. Together, in cooperation with governments, public- and private-sector stakeholders, and an expanding arsenal of cancer prevention and treatment interventions, there is hope that women’s cancers can be controlled, ultimately reducing the number of deaths related to women’s cancers. 

By Julie Wieland, Program Associate at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon