World Cancer Day: Over 450,000 cancer diagnoses every year

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On the occasion of today's World Cancer Day, the World Cancer Organization (UICC) pointed out the enormous number of new cases each year. Every year, around 450,000 people in Germany alone are diagnosed with cancer. Cancer can often be avoided by changing lifestyle.

Cancer has the status of widespread disease in Germany. But a third of the 450,000 cancers a year can be avoided through a healthy lifestyle, the experts from the World Cancer Organization said. Refraining from tobacco and alcohol as well as regular physical activity could make a significant contribution to cancer prevention.

Unhealthy lifestyle is crucial for cancers According to the UICC, the main reasons for the high number of cancers are tobacco consumption, too much alcohol, obesity and high levels of sun exposure. According to the experts, a lifestyle change would significantly reduce the cancer risk in many Germans. "We have to get people to take on more responsibility in their own lives," emphasized Professor Werner Hohenberger, President of the German Cancer Society, as part of World Cancer Day in Berlin. Regular physical activity is also part of a healthier lifestyle. According to Prof. Hohenberger, 30 minutes of active exercise a day would be sufficient to significantly reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer in adults. A movement duration of 60 minutes is recommended for children and adolescents. "Today we have good data that demonstrate the benefits of exercise to prevent cancer," Hohenberger emphasized the importance of physical activity for cancer prevention. He believes that around 180,000 cancer diagnoses per year could be avoided in this country through a healthier lifestyle.

Cancer could be avoided: WHO recommends physical exercise As part of World Cancer Day, the health expert at the World Health Organization (WHO), Ala Awan, in Geneva also explained that "physical exercise (...) plays a major role in reducing the incidence of certain types of cancer". According to the WHO, 21 to 25 percent of worldwide breast cancer and colon cases are due to a lack of exercise. The expert emphasized that "sedentary lifestyle (...) is one of the four leading risk factors for all global deaths". According to the WHO recommendations, around 150 minutes of exercise a week could significantly reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer. The WHO health expert advises on walks and jogging, among other things.

Screening programs could significantly reduce cancer deaths The UICC also points out that participation in cancer screening programs could reduce the number of cancer-related deaths by a third. Because with early diagnosis, the tumors are often still in a curable stage. According to the experts, around 70,000 deaths per year would be avoidable in Germany. "Despite this knowledge, the participation rates are staggering," reported Prof. Hohenberger. "Just every second woman and every fifth man (...) take advantage of the chances of early cancer detection", the expert complained. At this point, according to the UICC, politics is also required to make people more responsible for their own health and to encourage cancer prevention.

Over 200,000 cancer deaths annually in Germany With regard to cancer in Germany, the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden announced that 216,128 people died of a malignant tumor in Germany in 2009, of which 116,711 were men and 99,417 were women. Every fourth death (25.3 percent) in Germany is due to cancer. According to the Federal Statistical Office, life expectancy for those affected is reduced by an average of 6.7 years to 73.6 years. The numbers have been largely constant for years, explained Destatis employee Silvia Schelo. Lung and bronchial cancer is still responsible for most cancer-related deaths (42,221 in 2009) in Germany. In total, almost 1.5 million people (around 680,000 women and 810,000 men) had to be treated in the hospital for cancer in 2009.

Gender-specific differences in cancer diseases There are slight gender-specific differences. With 7.2 percent (29,133 in total) of all cancer deaths in men, most deaths are due to malignant tumors in the lungs or bronchi. The second most common cause for men, according to the Federal Statistical Office, is prostate cancer (12,217 deaths, 3 percent of all cancer deaths). In women, however, most cancer deaths are due to breast cancer (17,066 cases; 3.8 percent), followed by lung and bronchial cancer (13,088 cases; 2.9 percent). Overall, the number of annual cancer-related deaths has reached alarming levels, the agency said. Cancer, with 41 percent of all deaths, is the most common cause of death among 45 to 65 year olds. The risk of fatal cancer increases significantly with age, but a quarter of all cancer deaths in 2009 were under 65, the Federal Statistical Office said.

Cancer cases to double by 2030? The American Cancer Society has used World Cancer Day as an opportunity to illustrate the global development of cancer by 2030 and to show the international differences between the various types of cancer. Based on two studies, the US experts came to the conclusion that the number of cancer cases is expected to almost double by 2030. The reasons given are the demographic changes (growing, aging world population), but also the unhealthy lifestyle. According to the experts, the spread of the various types of cancer differs internationally primarily between the industrialized and developing countries. In developing countries, cancer is mostly caused by infections, with gastric and liver tumors in men and cervical cancer in women being the most common types of cancer.

In industrialized countries in particular, the high number of lung cancer cases is directly attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle or smoking. However, lung cancer cases among men are already declining in western industrialized nations, while they have increased significantly in China and some African countries in recent years as more and more people smoke there, the experts from the American Cancer Society said.

World cancer declaration to warn the heads of state and government On the occasion of World Cancer Day, German Cancer Aid also campaigned for the signing of the world cancer declaration, which is to be handed over to the participating heads of state and government at the UN summit on “Noncommunicable Diseases” in September. With the declaration, the experts are calling for everyone worldwide to be able to minimize their individual cancer risk and thus reduce the increase in cancer deaths. It is not only about measures to reduce obesity, tobacco or alcohol consumption, but also about comprehensive programs for vaccination against hepatitis B and HPV (human papilloma viruses) as part of liver cancer and cervical cancer prevention. (fp)

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