Cancer is set to become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the coming decades in every region of the world. We aimed to assess the changing patterns of cancer according to varying levels of human development.
We used four levels (low, medium, high, and very high) of the Human Development Index (HDI), a composite indicator of life expectancy, education, and gross domestic product per head, to highlight cancer-specific patterns in 2008 (on the basis of GLOBOCAN estimates) and trends 1988-2002 (on the basis of the series in Cancer Incidence in Five Continents), and to produce future burden scenario for 2030 according to projected demographic changes alone and trends-based changes for selected cancer sites.
In the highest HDI regions in 2008, cancers of the female breast, lung, colorectum, and prostate accounted for half the overall cancer burden, whereas in medium HDI regions, cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, and liver were also common, and together these seven cancers comprised 62% of the total cancer burden in medium to very high HDI areas. In low HDI regions, cervical cancer was more common than both breast cancer and liver cancer. Nine different cancers were the most commonly diagnosed in men across 184 countries, with cancers of the prostate, lung, and liver being the most common. Breast and cervical cancers were the most common in women. In medium HDI and high HDI settings, decreases in cervical and stomach cancer incidence seem to be offset by increases in the incidence of cancers of the female breast, prostate, and colorectum. If the cancer-specific and sex-specific trends estimated in this study continue, we predict an increase in the incidence of all-cancer cases from 12·7 million new cases in 2008 to 22·2 million by 2030.
Our findings suggest that rapid societal and economic transition in many countries means that any reductions in infection-related cancers are offset by an increasing number of new cases that are more associated with reproductive, dietary, and hormonal factors. Targeted interventions can lead to a decrease in the projected increases in cancer burden through effective primary prevention strategies, alongside the implementation of vaccination, early detection, and effective treatment programmes.