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World Cancer Day: Unite the Fight Against Cancer

World Cancer Day: Unite the Fight Against Cancer content piece image
Credit: Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)
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World Cancer Day takes place on February 4 each year and is led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). This global event aims to ‘unite the fight’ against cancer and raise awareness of the disease. To mark this day, we have compiled some key cancer facts and a selection of the latest research developments.

Cancer Facts

Did you know that there are over 100 different types of cancer?1 In 2012, an estimated 14.1 M new cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide, the most common types of cancer include:2

    • Lung                              1,824,701 cases (13%)

    • Breast (female)            1,676,633 cases (11.9%)

    • Bowel                            1,360,602 cases (9.7%)

    • Prostate                        1,111,689 cases (7.9%)

A staggering 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost due to cancer in 2008, and there was an estimated 8.8 M deaths from cancer during 2015, highlighting the importance of progressing research towards treatment of this disease. Experts predict that by 2030, there will be ~23.6 M new cancer cases each year.

Cancer: Risk Factors

Several factors, including age, genetics and, environmental and lifestyle factors, can influence an individual’s risk of developing cancer. We have highlighted some of them below:

Tobacco and Alcohol: It is estimated that ~33% of cancer cases are associated with tobacco smoke exposure and experts conclude that tobacco is the single largest, avoidable, cause of cancer worldwide.3,4 Shockingly, smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancers. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of several cancers including but not limited to; lung, larynx, stomach, bladder and cervical.5

When it comes to alcohol, cancer risk increases in a dose-dependent manner; the more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk of developing cancer. Ethanol and acetaldehyde, its genotoxic metabolite, play a key role in the carcinogenicity of alcohol.5

Diet, body weight and exercise: Researchers have investigated the potential link between an individual’s diet and cancer, their conclusion; the food we eat can affect our risk of cancer.5,6

Excess body fat can increase a person’s risk of cancer. Eating more fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of aerodigestive tract cancers. Red and processed meat can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, whereas dietary fibre protects against it.7 Weight gain, through physical inactivity, is also associated with and increased risk of cancer. Survey data indicated that more than one third of the European adult population is physically inactive.8 Being more physically active is certainly advised, as research shows it decreases the risk of multiple cancer types, for example; breast, colon, lung, and endometrial.5

Infection: Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, as well as back of the throat. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends vaccinating new-borns as a preventative measure. HIV, hepatitis C, amongst others, are also cancer causing.

We have summarized the “12 ways to reduce your cancer risk”,5 outlined by the European Code against Cancer:


1. Do not smoke.

2. Have a smoke-free home and workplace.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight.

4. Be physically active and limit sedentary behavior.

5. Adopt a healthy diet.

     • Eat whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.

     • Limit high-calorie foods and avoid sugary drinks.

     • Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and high-salt foods.

6. Limit your alcohol intake.

7. Avoid excessive sun exposure. Use sun protection.

8. At work; protect yourself against cancer-causing substances. Follow health and safety procedures.

9. Are you exposed to radiation from naturally high radon levels in your home.
    Take action to reduce high levels of radon.

10. For women:

     • Breastfeeding reduces a mother's risk of cancer. If possible, breastfeed your baby.

     • Limit use of Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as it can increase risk of some cancers.

11. Ensure your children take part in vaccination programmes for:

     • Hepatitis B (for newborns), human papillomavirus (HPV) (females)

12. Participate in cancer screening programmes for:

     • Bowel, breast and cervical cancer

Cancer Research Progress: 2017 Highlights and Ongoing Efforts

Several organizations, including Cancer Research UK and Worldwide Cancer Research, are making a tenacious effort to advance research in to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Earlier this year, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation announced that 11 early career scientists with novel approaches to fighting cancer had been awarded ~$3 M in funding to advance their research.

To sum up their progress during 2017, Cancer Research UK shortlisted their news, press releases and announcements from 2017 and asked Peter Breaden, a retired biomedical scientist, pancreatic cancer survivor and Media Volunteer to select his most significant cancer research stories of the year.

The Institute of Cancer Research published their top scientific achievements of 2017. Researchers identified a new cause of kidney cancer in children; developed a 3-in-1 blood test of prostate cancer; discovered a molecule crucial to the growth of triple-negative breast cancers that could be targeted by drugs; and they located a ‘safety catch’ that oversees normal cell division, the discovery of this ‘switch’ could lead to new cancer treatments.

At the end of January 2018, the BBVA Foundation announced that James (Jim) P. Allison, the creator of the first immunotherapy to prove highly effective against cancer, was to be awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (Biomedicine category).

These are just some of 2017’s incredible achievements and announcements, there will surely be more impressive strides toward the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer during 2018…