Cancer to pass heart disease as No. 1 killer

Tue Dec 9, 2008 3:53pm EST
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By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cancer is on pace to supplant heart disease as the No. 1 cause of death worldwide in 2010, with a growing burden in poor countries thanks to more cigarette smoking and other factors, global health experts said on Tuesday.

Globally, an estimated 12.4 million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer this year and 7.6 million people will die, the U.N. World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said in a report.

"The global cancer burden doubled in the last 30 years of the 20th century, and it is estimated that this will double again between 2000 and 2020 and nearly triple by 2030," according to the report.

By 2030, 26.4 million people a year may be diagnosed with cancer, with 17 million people dying from it, the report forecast.

In men, lung cancer was the most common form in terms of new cases and deaths, while breast cancer was the most common type among women in new cases and deaths, according to the report. More men than women get cancer and die from it.

"This is going to present amazing problems at every level in every society worldwide," the IARC's Peter Boyle said at a news conference.

In the near term, cancer is expected to bypass heart disease as the leading killer globally in 2010, American Cancer Society Chief Executive Officer John Seffrin said. Cancer currently accounts for about one in eight deaths worldwide.

Trends that will contribute to rising cancer cases and deaths include the aging of populations in many countries -- cancer is more common in the elderly -- and increasing rates of cigarette smoking in poor countries.   Continued...

<p>An empty operating theatre is seen at the University hospital in western German city of Bonn March 16, 2006. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender</p>