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The Global Cancer Research Story

Cancer is a global issue.

In 2012 alone, nearly 8.2 million people worldwide died from cancer and it is predicted that 13.2 million people will die in 2030.

More than 35 percent of these deaths could be prevented by controlling tobacco use, diet, alcohol use, and infection. Screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer and improving access to effective treatments could also save lives.

One of the problems, however, is that in many countries people do not have access to basic cancer screening or public health resources and may also have trouble accessing standard surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and palliative care resources after they are diagnosed with cancer. As a result, cancers that could be prevented or treated successfully—lung, stomach, liver, colon, and breast cancer—remain the five leading causes of cancer death for men and women in the developing world.

Today we have an unparalleled opportunity for making scientific and public health advances on the control of cancer and to decrease the global burden of cancer.  There is a strong and growing awareness of the importance of global health and the need for coordinated approaches to improve global health.  There is clear evidence of progress in controlling infectious diseases worldwide, thanks to coordinated approaches in basic research, translational research, clinical trials, implementation science, and capacity building. This suggests that similar approaches will be useful for non-communicable diseases, including cancer. In addition, as much as 18 percent of cancers are caused by chronic infection. Progress in control of infectious disease has already had an impact on the incidence of some cancers linked to infection, such as liver cancer (hepatitis viruses), cervical cancer (human papillomaviruses), and stomach cancer (helicobacter pylori).

Global cancer research also benefits those living with cancer on our American home front. We can learn much faster about the impact of environmental and genetic factors upon the development of certain types of cancer when we study those cancers in regions with a very high incidence of the disease. The information we gain helps us develop strategies to prevent, screen for, and treat those same cancers in the United States. We can also learn from global collaborations how to improve prevention, screening, and treatment for many cancers which are common in the United States. By coordinating our research with international partners, we can also make progress in cancer research much faster, building on the investments in cancer research made around the world.

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