World Cancer Day: Cancer leaders call for equal access to reduce premature cancer deaths by 25%

Cancer Council Queensland has joined with cancer leaders, health professionals and supporters across the world calling for urgent action to reduce the rate of premature cancer deaths globally, with diagnostic and treatment access to be prioritised.

World Cancer Day (Sunday, February 4), aims to raise awareness of the millions of people world-wide facing unequal access to cancer detection, treatment and care services.

The global target of a 25% reduction in premature deaths from cancer and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 2025 is possible. However, to deliver on this global commitment, the current inequities in risk factor exposure, and in access to screening, early detection and timely and appropriate treatment and care, must be addressed.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said cancer was the leading cause of premature death in Queensland.

“In Queensland around 4300 people die from cancer prematurely each year – making up 43 per cent of all premature deaths in the state,” Ms McMillan said.

“Investment in better prevention and early diagnosis programs, and better treatment options, is key to reducing the number of people dying prematurely.

“We’re committed to joining with organisations around the world to achieve this goal and save more lives.”

World Cancer Day, led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), every year rallies the world’s voices against what the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognised for the first time as the leading cause of global morbidity[1].

Today, there are an estimated 8.8 million deaths from cancer every year[2]. However, it is the low- to middle-income countries who are bearing the brunt, as approximately 70% of deaths occur in developing countries, which are the most ill-equipped to cope with the cancer burden[3].

Inequities are also acutely experienced in high- to middle-income countries, particularly within certain populations, including the indigenous, immigrant, refugee, rural, and lower-socioeconomic populations.

President of UICC and Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said:

“Set in 2011, the World Health Organization’s target to cut premature NCD deaths by 25% within 14 years is coming towards its half way mark. We can meet the target, but more action than ever will be required,” Professor Aranda said.

“Inequality in access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care makes reducing premature deaths from cancer difficult. If we are committed to achieving this goal, we must act quickly and decisively to make access to cancer services more equal all around the world.

“In the last year of the ‘We can. I can.’ campaign for World Cancer Day, we hope to inspire real action from governments and civil society in addressing the inequities in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care, which unfortunately largely affects the most vulnerable populations in every country.

“In Australia, while we maintain some of the best cancer outcomes in the world, national data shows that the gap between those in the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups is continuing to widen over time. These overlooked voices must be more forcefully represented in our discussions this World Cancer Day.”

As an urgent response to the global equity gap and the critical need for an in-country response, UICC officially launched, Treatment for All. It marks the second new initiative by UICC in as many years to mobilise national action to improve access to diagnosis and treatment for cancer, and is a direct acknowledgement that the cancer burden cannot be alleviated exclusively through prevention to reduce cancer incidence.

“The tsunami of cancer cases anticipated in the coming decades requires a persuasive and robust response at all levels – global and national. Treatment for All, in tandem with its sister initiative, C/Can 2025: City Cancer Challenge, will work to accelerate progress by translating global commitments to evidence-, safety- and quality-based national actions,” Dr Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer of UICC said.

By empowering individuals, cities, countries and governments to lever Treatment for All’s four pillars of cancer treatment and care, we can achieve:

  • Improved quality of cancer data for public health use
  • Increased number of people with access to early detection and accurate cancer diagnosis
  • Greater timely and quality treatment for early and metastatic disease
  • At a minimum, basic supportive and palliative care service for the current 32.6 million people living with cancer[4].

Today, on World Cancer Day, ‘We can. I can.’ improve access and deliver on the global target of a 25% reduction in cancer and NCD premature deaths by 2025.

[1] World Health Organization (2017) Seventieth World Health Assembly, Agenda item 15.6: Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach [Accessed:21.12.17]

[2] World Health Organization (2017) Cancer Fact Sheet. [Accessed:20.12.17]

[3] World Health Organization (2017) Cancer Fact Sheet. [Accessed:20.12.17]

[4] GLOBOCAN 2012 (International Agency for Research on Cancer), Estimated Cancer Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence in Nigeria in 2012 [Accessed: 20.12.17]

Key information:

• World Cancer Day (February 4) highlights the global equity gap in accessing early detection, treatment and care services.
• UICC calls for more equal access to reduce premature cancer and non-communicable disease deaths by 25% by 2025 in line with WHO targets.
• Consolidated country-by-country statistics on cancer incidences and mortalities, national cancer control plans and registries and access to radiotherapy based on latest GLOBOCAN and WHO data.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Laura McKoy,
Media Manager,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5345
Mobile: 0409 001 171