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World Cancer Day Aims to Unite Millions to Increase Awareness, Reduce Global Burden

Andrew J. Roth
Published: Thursday, Feb 04, 2016

Cary Adams

Cary Adams

Held each year on Feb. 4, World Cancer Day aims to unite people from around the world to increase awareness of cancer in a positive and inspiring way.

With more than 8 million cancer deaths worldwide every year, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) hopes to encourage both groups and individuals to reflect on how they can help reduce the global burden of cancer.

The group is using the tagline “We can. I can” for World Cancer Day this year.

“It's an extraordinarily exciting day to see so many positive and inspirational stories emanate from social media and generally in the media, as a result of activities taken by the general public, cancer organizations, universities, governments, everyone,” Cary Adams, chief executive officer of the UICC, said in an interview with OncLive.

“It's just a wonderful day to celebrate what we can achieve if we actually put our minds together against cancer.”

The first half of World Cancer Day’s tagline, “We can,” asks businesses and government organizations to reaffirm their commitment to public health. In a press release, UICC urges governments to engage in 4 specific actions:
  • The implementation of vaccination programs to prevent infections that cause cancers such as cervical and liver
  • An increase in access to screening and detection programs for cervical, breast and bowel cancers
  • An improvement in tobacco taxation and regulation
  • Pain relief and palliative care for all patients with cancer
“The solution to addressing cancer globally is held in the hands of individuals, and in the hands of groups, organizations and governments,” Adams says.

UICC says many cancers—up to 4.5 million annually—can be prevented with simple lifestyle interventions. “I can” encourages individuals to reduce their own cancer risk through actions such as stopping smoking, exercising more, and reducing consumption of alcohol and red and processed meat.

UICC is also stressing the economic impact of cancer through World Cancer Day, as about half of the total number of cancer deaths this year will be of working age individuals (30 to 69 years old).

According to a study by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health, it is estimated that cancer will cause an economic burden of $8.3 trillion worldwide from 2011 to 2030. Total economic burden reflects medical costs, non-medical costs, and income losses due to treatment or disability.

“World Cancer Day 2016 is a chance to reflect on what everyone can do to reduce the impact of this devastating disease, now, and for the future," said UICC president Tezer Kutluk in a statement. "We wish it to be a springboard for positive change. Take action for yourself, your organization or your community/country, as everyone can make a difference and inspire others. ‘We can. I can' beat cancer. Join us on World Cancer Day 2016 to take action on cancer by making health and well-being commitments, participating in the official 'Talking Hands' social media activity and getting involved in hundreds of other awareness raising initiatives that are happening worldwide."

Adams says the economic impact of cancer can be reduced by improving detection, treatment, and palliative care.

“In order to address the economic impact of cancer on all countries' economic growth and social development, we need to put funding in now to address the causes of cancer, to improve the detection of cancer and, in time, improve the treatment of cancer so people live a fuller and healthier life,” Adams says.

In recent weeks, a new White House task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden has begun to construct plans for a “moonshot” to cure cancer. The plan's first steps include doubling the current rate of research—to complete 5 years of gains that might otherwise take a decade or more.

This “moonshot” fits right in with the goals of UICC and World Cancer Day, Adams says.

“From my perspective, it is an important statement of priority and intent and a hope that inspires others, within the US and around the world [...] to commit equal amounts to help this research for treatments for cancer,” Adams says.

Whether it is just one day of the year or one initiative by the government of one country, Adams says, anything can become a catalyst for greater change in cancer care.

“[World Cancer Day] is the one day in the year when everyone—literally everyone in every country—(has the chance to) come together and say something or do something about cancer.”


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