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Breast, Cervical Cancer More Deadly in Developing Nations: Report

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Women in developing countries are more likely to die of breast and cervical cancer than those in richer nations, researchers report.

But, they added, many of the deaths in these low- and middle-income countries could be prevented with cost-effective treatment.

"The global community cannot continue to ignore the problem -- hundreds of thousands of women are dying unnecessarily every year, and the need for affordable access to cancer care is projected to increase in the coming decades, as many of the poorest countries face rising rates of cancers," said study co-author Richard Sullivan.

Sullivan is a professor of cancer and global health at King's College London in England.

The number of breast cancer cases diagnosed worldwide could almost double, from 1.7 million in 2015 to 3.2 million by 2030 if urgent action is not taken, the researchers said. Meanwhile, the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer could rise by at least 25 percent, to more than 700,000, by 2030.

However, routine human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of girls in the poorest countries over the next four years could prevent 600,000 cervical cancer deaths in the future, the researchers said.

The findings were published as a three-paper series in the Nov. 1 issue of The Lancet and were to be presented at the World Cancer Congress in Paris.

Each year, more than 2 million women worldwide are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer. The diseases kill 800,000 women a year. But, two-thirds of breast cancer deaths and 90 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries, the study findings showed.

While mammography and radiation therapy can be too expensive in developing countries, there are several cost-effective interventions that could prevent hundreds of thousands of breast and cervical cancer deaths each year, according to the researchers.

For example, cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with routine HPV vaccination and cervical screening, and treatment of pre-cancers when they're detected. Neither approach requires oncologists or specialized cancer centers, the study authors said.

"There is a widespread misconception that breast and cervical cancers are too difficult and expensive to prevent and treat, particularly in resource-poor countries where the burden of these diseases is highest. But nothing could be further from the truth," said research leader Ophira Ginsburg, a professor at the University of Toronto.

"This series clearly shows that high-impact, cost-effective interventions exist for countries at all stages of development. Recent estimates suggest that a basic cancer control package could be introduced in low- and middle-income countries for as little as $1.72 per person -- equivalent to just 3 percent of current health spending in these countries," Ginsburg said in a journal news release.

Sullivan added, "This situation could be turned around by 2030 if the international community, policymakers, politicians, health care professionals and patients address this issue now."

More information

The World Health Organization has more on breast cancer.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Nov. 1, 2016

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