Why has cancer increased

15 million new cancer cases each year

It can affect anyone: every third man and every fifth woman worldwide suffers from cancer - and the number is rising. In 2013 alone, there were 15 million new cancer cases worldwide, as an analysis of the international case numbers now shows. Among the malignant tumors, lung cancer is the most common in men and breast cancer in women. The types of cancer that mainly occur in old age have increased the most.

Malignant tumors have probably been around for as long as there have been people. Skeletal finds show that at least the ancient Egyptians already suffered from cancer. In modern times, however, tumor diseases have become one of the most common causes of death and disease. Why is only partially clear today. A role is played by the fact that people are getting older today and that many types of cancer increase as they get older. On the other hand, many factors in the modern way of life also favor the development of cancer.

The Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration has now recorded in an extensive study how cancer incidence has developed over the past 25 years. The researchers evaluated cancer registries, medical records, autopsy reports and other medical records in 188 states. They determined the number of cases and deaths from 1990 to 2013 for 28 different types of cancer.

Second leading cause of death worldwide

The result: "In 2013 there were 14.9 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million deaths from cancer worldwide," report the researchers. This makes cancer the second leading cause of death worldwide after cardiovascular diseases. The proportion of cancer deaths among all deaths has also risen by three percent to 15 percent since 1990.

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and other respiratory rumors © thinkstock

Every third man and every fifth woman will develop a malignant tumor disease in their lifetime. In both sexes, lung cancer and other cancers of the respiratory tract are the leading cause of cancer death. In Germany, colon cancer follows directly behind. Among the diseases, lung cancer and other tumors of the respiratory tract are the most common types of cancer, and one in 18 men develops this type of cancer. In women, breast cancer tops the list, again with an incidence of one in 18.

Age plays the most important role

Cancer types that mainly occur in old age have increased the most - in view of the increasing life expectancy and the increasing proportion of elderly people in the population, especially in industrialized countries, this is hardly surprising. Prostate cancer is 217 percent more common today than it was 25 years ago.

But breast cancer, thyroid cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer have also increased disproportionately. "With the global increase in life expectancy, the future cancer rate will increase even further if no way is found to prevent new diseases," predict the researchers.

Cancer types vary in frequency depending on the region

There are also differences between industrialized and developing countries: while lung cancer claims the most deaths in most industrialized countries, North Africa and Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa it is mainly cervical and esophageal cancer. Because smoking is less common there than here, lung cancer is five to ten times less common. Liver cancer, on the other hand, is the leading cause of death in Southeast Asia and South Asia, with hepatitis infections likely playing a major role, according to the researchers.

"For a long time, cancer was primarily seen as a problem in industrialized countries," the researchers state. But the new statistics show that developing countries are rapidly catching up in many types of cancer. "In order to avoid an epidemic that would undo all the advances made in health care, preventive strategies against cancer must be a priority here," said the scientists. In addition to education, this also includes vaccinations against infections that promote certain types of cancer such as liver cancer or cervical cancer. (JAMA Oncology, 2015; doi: 10.1001 / jamaoncol.2015.0735)

(The JAMA Network Journals, May 29, 2015 - NPO)

May 29, 2015