40% OF CANCER CASES CAN BE PREVENTED. Up to 40% of all cancers could be prevented through changes in lifestyle and improved prevention and screening policies, the WHO Regional Office for Europe said ahead of World Cancer Day on 4 February 2010.

Individuals can significantly reduce their cancer risk related to tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure and obesity by avoiding these risk factors and adopting healthier lifestyles. As cancer incidence rates continue to rise, the role of governments is crucial in raising awareness and putting in place comprehensive early detection measures.“Well-conceived, effective national cancer control programmes are essential to fight cancer and to improve the lives of cancer patients,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, new Regional Director at the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “We urge governments to rigorously implement the four basic components of cancer control – prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care.”

Across the European region, low-income and disadvantaged groups are particularly exposed to avoidable cancer risk factors and infectious agents. These groups have less awareness of risk factors and limited access to health services.

Cancer statistics

According to the latest statistics, cancer causes around 7.6 million deaths worldwide each year. Of these, more than 72% occur in low- and middle-income countries. Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 17 millions deaths in 2030.

Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer – a trend that is expected to continue until 2030, unless efforts for global tobacco control are greatly intensified. Some cancers are more common in developed countries: prostate, breast and colon. Liver, stomach and cervical cancer are more common in developing countries.

In the 53 countries covered by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Hungary has the highest cancer mortality rate (458 per 100,000 population), followed by the Russian Federation and Ukraine (347 per 100,000 population). This has been suggested to be the result of high smoking rates.

Breast cancer is responsible for most cancer-related deaths in women (17.2% of all female cancer deaths), while lung cancer is a leading killer amongst men (26.9% of all male cancer deaths) in the European region.

Lung cancer mortality rates are highest in Hungary (135 per 100,000 population), followed by Poland (93 per 100,000 population) and Croatia (86 per 100,000 population). Romania leads the statistics in cervical cancer deaths (21 per 100,000 population) while breast cancer deaths are highest in Belgium and Armenia (37 per 100,000 population).

World Cancer Day 2010 campaign

The World Health Organization is an important partner in this year’s World Cancer Day campaign, led by the Geneva-based International Union Against Cancer (UICC), an umbrella for organizations working on cancer control.

UICC’s scientific report, to be published on 4 February, will focus on cancers that can be caused by infectious agents (viruses, bacteria and other pathogens) and the means for intervention and prevention. WHO estimates that 22% of cancer deaths are caused by infections in low- and middle income countries, while 6% in developed countries.

Leading sports personality Lance Armstrong, composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and former tennis champion Steffi Graf are among the celebrity activists lending their voice to the campaign.

WHO supports UICC’s World Cancer Declaration, an international call to action to substantially reduce the global cancer burden by 2020. The Declaration was developed by the international cancer control community to bring the cancer crisis to the attention of policy-makers worldwide. It lays out an ambitious set of 11 targets and action plan to stop and reverse current trends.


The European health report 2009. Health and health systems

Atlas of Health in Europe, 2008

World Cancer Report, 2008, International Agency for Research on Cancer

World Cancer Day global campaign website

This press release will also be available in Russian, French and German on the website soon.

For more information, please contact

Ms Zsofia Szilagyi
Communications Adviser
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel: +45 3917 1627, Fax: +45 39 17 18 80