This past Monday, 4 February 2019, was the 20th occasion to mark World Cancer Day. Emanating from the Charter of Paris, the aim is to “promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.” Their logo, seen at right, expresses the shared human experience of cancer, and features a person embracing the world. The organisation behind the initiative is the Union for International Cancer Control which is dedicated to taking the lead in building capacity and uniting communities in reducing the global cancer burden.
Here are a few sobering facts: 9.6 million people die from cancer every year; at least one third of common cancers can be prevented; it is the second-leading cause of death worldwide; the majority – 70% – of cancer deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries; the annual economic burden of cancer is estimated to be US$1.2 trillion; and as many as 3.7 million lives could be saved each year by implementing sensible strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment.
Given the impact that cancer has on the lives of ordinary human beings, it is understandable that reports of a cure for cancer garner significant public attention. Last week, Forbes published a story about an Israeli company called Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies (AEBi) that claimed to have developed “the cure”. Not surprisingly, most serious scientists quoted were skeptical, particularly since the team at AEBi had not yet published their findings in the peer-reviewed literature. Len Lichtenfeld, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, commented: “We hope this approach bears fruit and is successful [but] the process to get this treatment from mouse to man is not always a simple and uncomplicated journey.”
As we have pointed out on numerous occasions, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has a dubious record of publishing suspect papers that call into question the benefits of screening for breast cancer. Well, last week the BMJ released a news report by Nigel Hawkes entitled “Cancer survival data emphasise importance of early diagnosis.” Interestingly, among the recommendations he highlights is the need in the UK for capital investment in additional diagnostic equipment.
As indicated by the title above, the theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is #IAmAndIWill, which suggests that all of us have the power to reduce the impact of cancer, for ourselves, for the people we love and for the world. It’s time to act and make a difference!