World Cancer Day theme promotes prevention and participation

Monday 1 February, 2010

‘Cancer can be prevented too' is the campaign theme of this year's World Cancer Day on Thursday, 4 February. World Cancer Day is celebrated every year on 4 February, and is led by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and its member organisations with the support of the World Health Organization and key partners. 

"A global survey of cancer-related beliefs and behaviours in over 40 countries indicates that many low and middle income residents in some countries had low awareness that behaviours such as smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco, consuming alcohol and having diets low in fruit, vegetables, cereals or wholegrains and high in fatty foods and red meat, lack of exercise and being overweight or obese, could increase the risk of cancer.

"There was also low awareness that viruses and bacteria can elevate cancer risk," said Professor David Hill, Director of Cancer Council Victoria and UICC President.

"This information raises many concerns, as the risk of developing cancer can potentially be reduced by up to 40% by making simple lifestyle changes and participating in other control measures such as vaccination."

Of the 12 million people who are diagnosed with cancer each year, around 20% of cases can be attributed to viral and bacterial infections that either directly cause or increase the risk of cancer. Cancers caused by viral or bacterial infections can be prevented through strategies such as vaccination and by adopting lifestyle changes, safe behaviours and other control measures, all of which could be implemented worldwide.

"Despite the existence of these preventive measures, there is a clear disparity between low- and high-income countries in incidence rates of cancer related to infections (26% vs 8%), access to prevention program and treatment and care," said Professor Hill.

For example, 80% of global cervical cancer deaths are in developing countries, and even where affordable technology is available, enormous challenges remain due to limitations in disease awareness and public health infrastructures, illustrated by the significant differences in the coverage of hepatitis B vaccination programs worldwide.

In Australia, these cancer prevention strategies are easily accessible through our public health system. We are privileged to have access to the PapScreen (women 18-69), BreastScreen (women 50-69) and National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP- men and women 50, 55 and 65 years old), and the cervical cancer vaccine, which was developed right here in Australia.

The current available data of Victorian participation rates for eligible participants in the PapScreen and BreastScreen programs are currently at 62% and 84% respectively, and for the NBCSP, have been hovering around 40% (of those offered screening) since its introduction in 2007.

Professor Hill acknowledges that we still ‘haven't finished the job'.

"There's no reason that we shouldn't be getting even better participation rates in our screening programs in Victoria. And a more effective NBCSP would be one that was best practice and available to all Australians aged 50 and over, every two years."

The International Union Against Cancer (UICC) was founded in 1933. UICC is the world's leading consortium of cancer-fighting organizations, with over 300 members spanning Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the headquarters provides reporters with editorial materials and access to interview opportunities with experts from cancer-fighting affiliates in over 100 countries (www.uicc.org).

Please sign the World Cancer Declaration: www.uicc.org/declaration

For media materials including the World Cancer Campaign Report 2010 'Protection against cancer-causing infections,' visit: http://www.worldcancercampaign.org/

Updated: 01 Feb, 2010