Atomic energy agency marks World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day is marked each year on 4 February to raise awareness of the far-reaching impact of cancer and the need to mobilize efforts to combat the disease. Today, as global cancer levels continue to rise, the message is becoming increasingly urgent. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that unless action is taken now, more than 84 million people will die of cancer over the next ten years, 75% of them in developing countries.

In a statement issued in support of World Cancer Day 2008, IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei draws attention to the growing cancer burden afflicting the world´s poorest nations. 'Nowhere is the need greater than in the developing world, where millions of people are suffering and dying due to lack of cancer prevention and treatment,' he says.

Referring to the Agency´s work with other stakeholders to tackle the cancer crisis, Dr. ElBaradei says: 'The IAEA commends all organizations, agencies and individuals engaged in the battle to defeat this dreadful disease. We look forward to continued collaboration with international partners, to help bring hope to cancer patients, to relieve suffering and to save lives'.

The IAEA launched its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) on World Cancer Day 2005 specifically to help developing countries fight cancer. Since then, PACT has formed strong partnerships with WHO, the International Union Against Cancer (UICC), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other key cancer organizations. The aim is to integrate the Agency´s radiotherapy expertise into comprehensive cancer control strategies that are tailored to meet the needs of individual countries. The partners are working together on six pilot projects — in Albania, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Yemen — which are making steady progress and helping to raise the profile of cancer as a global health concern.

But the challenges ahead are many. Cancer is still seen as a disease predominantly of affluent, industrialized countries, and has not been given priority in the developing world. Yet in many low-income countries, changing lifestyles and increasing urbanization mean higher rates of obesity and tobacco use, which are significant risk factors for cancer. At the same time, poverty, environmental pollution and widespread viral infection leave people more vulnerable to the disease.

The tragedy is that with adequate funding and resources, more than 40% of all cancers can be prevented, and 30% can be cured, if detected and treated in time. 'PACT is calling for a global alliance and global fund to fight this disease, which kills more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and threatens to reach epidemic proportions in the next decade,' says PACT Programme Head, Massoud Samiei. 'We have evidence-based solutions and strategies that work. We need to help developing countries put together the plans and raise the additional new money.' [ Listen »]

Around the globe, cancer organizations are using World Cancer Day to focus their messages on all aspects of the global cancer challenge: research, prevention, detection, treatment and care for cancer patients and their families. Among these, IARC is holding an expert symposium on cancer, while UICC, the main coordinator of World Cancer Day, and WHO will launch a platform of activities and events to inform the public and inspire response.

In line with UICC´s on-going campaign focused on children and cancer prevention, this year´s World Cancer Day promotes smoke-free childhood. The IAEA, through PACT, supports this important initiative.

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