World Cancer Day is launched every year on February 4th by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC). This year’s campaign aims to increase public awareness of the many simple steps that can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer later in life. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, up to 40% of cancers are considered preventable through currently available knowledge. That is, 40% of 12.4 million annual cancer diagnoses—and 7.6 million cancer deaths—are avoidable, through vaccination and/or simple lifestyle changes (UICC has produced some provocative campaign materials to drive home the point).
Lifestyle changes?? That’s right, and if you live in any part of the developed world, you ought to have some idea what they are: regular physical activity, eating healthily, limiting alcohol consumption, reducing sun exposure and avoiding tobacco. Hellooooo?!
The United Nations World Health Organization lists tobacco use as the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world, followed closely by excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Make no mistake, even with important medical and technological advances of recent years, the cancers that result from smoking and tanning are spectacularly disruptive. When they occur in the face, head and neck, they are disfiguring, and uniquely difficult to control, sometimes hijacking years, even decades of life and livelihood. Not to adopt simple, acknowledged preventive practices is patently irrational. Not to disseminate that knowledge globally is indefensible.
World Cancer Day is a response to a 2005 World Health Assembly resolution on cancer prevention and control, which calls on all countries to share the global burden of cancer. WHO provides practical advice on how to implement effective cancer control programs, particularly in low-and-middle-income countries, where cultural heritage and misinformation continue to hold sway over modern science. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the UICC partners with the United Nations World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency to unite more than 280 member organizations in over 90 countries in the global fight against cancer.
For more on World Cancer Day including the 2010 World Cancer Campaign Report Protection against cancer-causing infections, visit: www.worldcancercampaign.org. For more facts on cancer in the developing world visit: www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/.And in the spirit of World Cancer Day, tell the smokers you love: