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Section of Cancer Surveillance


As a background, the Section of Cancer Surveillance (CSU) operates in a rapidly evolving cancer landscape:

  • The global burden of cancer is predicted to double by 2040, with more than 29 million new cases and 16 million deaths per year estimated by 2040. At present, cancer and cardiovascular disease rank first and second as the leading causes of death at ages 30–69 years in almost 130 countries worldwide, and are among the top three causes of premature death in almost 180 countries. From a global perspective, cancer is set to become the leading cause of death and the single most important barrier to further gains in life expectancy during the course of the 21st century.
  • Demographic projections indicate that the greatest proportional increases in the cancer burden are in transitioning economies, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that already face a significant burden from infection-related diseases and are currently ill-equipped to deal with the impending rise in the burden of cancer, alongside other major noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This health transition is as much an economic issue as a public health issue, with huge costs and a significant decrease in national gross domestic product (GDP) resulting from lost productivity and premature death from cancer.
  • Cancer survival is increasing, with an estimated 70 million people living within 5 years of a cancer diagnosis by the end of 2040; this places a much-needed emphasis on the quality of life of cancer survivors. However, international benchmarking studies consistently reveal the extent of survival differences for treatable cancers internationally; survival is often 20–40 percentage points lower in LMICs than in high-income settings.
  • Despite the rising cancer burden and the striking disparities worldwide, national cancer plans are operational in only a few LMICs. Unprecedented efforts to sensitize governments and mobilize action through agreed high-level commitments aimed at tackling NCDs are often impeded by a prevailing lack of local quality-assured surveillance data. The development of robust incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries is a cost-effective strategy that fully complements surveillance of risk factors and deaths. Currently only about 30% of countries have high-quality cancer registries.


Although there are immense challenges, there are also unprecedented opportunities to further develop an extensive programme of cancer surveillance, research, and implementation via collaborations with global and multidisciplinary partners. In disseminating a wide range of global cancer indicators through the Global Cancer Observatory, in developing an innovative research programme linked to epidemiological transition, and in building the capacity of cancer surveillance through cancer registries in LMICs, the activities of CSU fully align with IARC’s mission and its medium-term strategy.


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