American Cancer Society warns that a ‘tidal wave’ of tumors is coming – with cases set to rise 80% by 2050

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • About 20 million cases diagnosed in 2022 expected to reach 25 million by 2050
  • Lung cancer was leading cause of diagnoses and the leading cause of deaths
  • READ MORE:  Dozens of countries suffering spike of cancers in under 50s

A tidal wave of cancer cases is expected to sweep the globe by 2050, jumping 77 percent between now and then, a new study says.

About 20 million cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2022, but that number is projected to balloon to more than 35 million cases by 2050, thanks in part to rising obesity rates and junk food diets.

Cancer death rates have trended downward in recent years, but as the population grows and skews older, deaths are likely to increase as well. In 2022, 9.7 million people died of cancer. 

The increase is partly fueled by a mystery rise in cancers among young people that is affecting dozens of nations worldwide. 

About 20 million cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2022, but that number is projected to balloon to more than 35 million cases by 2050

The above shows the most common type of cancer in each country

The above shows the most common type of cancer in each country

The leading types of cancer cases were lung cancer, breast cancer in women, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer.

Cancer rates in the US are following the same trajectory, particularly when it comes to colorectal cancers. Deaths, meanwhile have been trending downward.

For the new report, doctors affiliated with the American Cancer Society used the Global Cancer Observatory database to examine 2022 cancer data, the latest year for which data was available.

They covered 36 cancer types in 185 countries or territories worldwide. The study examined the top ten types of cancer in 20 different areas using figures such as age-adjusted rates and cumulative risk.

Obesity, alcohol, and tobacco use are all increasing around the world, and the US is no exception. But better screaning, such as mammogram uptake, are believed to be driving up rates as well, because more cases are being identified.  

The study also examines the Human Development Index (HDI) to understand how the cancer burden varies based on a country’s level of development. Using population trends, it predicts future cancer rates for 2050.

Dr Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said: ‘Understanding the global cancer burden is critical to ensuring everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.’

‘This data provides insight into trends and potential areas for intervention and can help prioritize discovery efforts worldwide. By funding research, advocating for change, and directly supporting patients, together we can make a durable impact on the more than 200 diseases we call cancer.’

Lung cancer was the most frequently diagnosed cancer in 2022, responsible for almost 2.5 million new cases, or one in eight cancers worldwide (12.4 percent of all cancers globally), followed by cancers of the female breast (11.6 percent), colorectum (9.6 percent), prostate (7.3 percent), and stomach (4.9 percent).

Colorectal cancer has made headlines in the past year as it has exploded in people under 50, an issue of high concern given most cancers are more common among older people. Nearly 18,000 cases are diagnosed among this age group every year in the US compared to 12,000 a year pre-2000.

There is also some evidence to suggest that the rise in colorectal cancers could be linked to fungal pathogens.  

Dr. Hyuna Sung, co-author of the report, said: ‘This rise in projected cancer cases by 2050 is solely due to the aging and growth of the population, assuming current incidence rates remain unchanged.

‘Notably, the prevalence of major risk factors such as consumption of unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking are increasing in many parts of the world and will likely exacerbate the future burden of cancer barring any large scale interventions.’

About 50 percent of cancers are preventable. For instance, eliminating tobacco use could prevent a quarter of cancer deaths, while healthy diet, physical activity, limiting sun exposure, and avoiding heavy alcohol consumption all make big difference.

The global population is expected to grow from about 8 billion people in 2022 to 9.7 billion in 2050. The report’s authors cautioned that if there’s an increase in tobacco use, obesity rates, and other cancer risk factors among more people, particularly in low-income countries, the anticipated number of cancer cases may rise further.

In 2022, global data indicates that lung cancer topped the list as the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with nearly 2.5 million new cases and over 1.8 million deaths reported.

Additionally, the report highlights that the top 10 cancer types, affecting both men and women, contributed to over 60 percent of newly diagnosed cases and cancer-related deaths.

Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, senior author of the study, said: ‘With more than half of cancer deaths worldwide being potentially preventable, prevention offers the most cost-effective and sustainable strategy for cancer control.

‘Elimination of tobacco use alone could prevent 1 in 4 cancer deaths or approximately 2.6 million cancer deaths annually.’

Their findings were published in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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