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World Cancer Report

Q&A with Dr Bernard W. Stewart, an editor of the next World Cancer Report

The next World Cancer Report is currently in preparation and will be published later this year. Hundreds of prominent investigators worldwide are contributing as authors or reviewers. World Cancer Report is published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) about every 5 years.

The new World Cancer Report will encapsulate all aspects of cancer research for cancer prevention, beginning with factors that account for marked differences in cancer incidence between countries and within communities. Dr Bernard W. Stewart, one of the book’s three editors, is meeting the challenge of presenting so much information in an accessible format.

Dr Stewart answered some questions about the upcoming World Cancer Report.

1. What is the purpose of the book?

The purpose of this World Cancer Report is to describe how cancer can be prevented. This book refers to the most up-to-date research about cancer causes and prevention. It provides new understanding about long-recognized causes, like smoking, as well as more recently discovered causes of cancer, such as being overweight or obese, exposure to some types of pollution, and particular infectious diseases.

Identifying the causes of cancer indicates a potential means of prevention. This book also covers the successes of prevention strategies and the progress towards a world in which fewer people are diagnosed with cancer.

2. What is new and striking in this World Cancer Report?

This new World Cancer Report has a total focus on the causes and prevention of cancer. Long-standing methods of investigation, for example linking certain cancer types to certain behaviours at a group level, are now being complemented by molecular technology that can reveal circumstances at an individual level.

This book brings together hundreds of experts, the results of whose work may not previously have gone beyond people working in the same field or in the same country. World Cancer Report presents a single package that examines what is known for lung cancer, for breast cancer, and so on through 20 different cancer types. Thus, what works best to prevent cancer is immediately available for the widest possible application.

3. Who is this book for?

This book is for everyone from cancer professionals to policy-makers to community leaders. When scientists in one area can see what their colleagues in other areas are achieving, progress speeds up. For example, molecular genetics has been adapted to contribute in relation to some cancer types but not others, and some approaches to cancer prevention have shown remarkable success but are not more widely used because of low awareness.

Building awareness among policy-makers and demonstrating the achievements of particular programmes can lead to governments implementing reforms. Importantly, increased awareness among the public can change people’s behaviour. World Cancer Report is a tool that community leaders and others can use to influence such good health practices.

4. Why are these results important?

There is no other book that brings together the most recent results and information on cancer “across the board”. Many cancer cases can be prevented, and even when prevention is not possible, early diagnosis saves lives. Although the discovery of breakthrough treatments for cancer is crucial to patients and their families, as Dr Christopher P. Wild (former IARC Director) has said, “We can’t treat our way out of the cancer problem.”

The predicted numbers of new cancer cases just over the horizon will overwhelm the world’s treatment centres, and increasing numbers of cancer deaths are expected, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. By putting what we already know to good use and using the prevention strategies that have been proven to work in high-income countries and adapting them to low- and middle-income countries, where most new cancer cases will occur, we can prevent a very large proportion of those cases. This knowledge is important, and spreading it is one of the reasons why World Cancer Report is so important.

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