Cancer in low and middle income countries – an increasing threat to development


Session type:

Ian Magrath
International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), Brussels, Belgium


Demographic and epidemiological changes have had a major effect on the global burden of cancer and the distribution of its subtypes across the world. The control of infections has led to greater longevity, longer exposures to environmental carcinogens, and lifestyle changes that have increased the incidence and burden of cancer, firstly in the wealthier countries, subsequently spreading rapidly to the lowest income countries. Unless accompanied by efforts to counteract the growing cancer burden, socioeconomic development will be slowed by ever-increasing health costs and potentially, an ever-increasing gap between the burden of cancer and the means to control it. Access to effective care in the low and middle income countries (85% of the world's population), remains poor; patients tend to have advanced disease when first detected, such that the possibility of cure has already been lost. This symposium will address the size of this problem and the approaches currently being explored in developing countries to reduce the burden of cancer while simultaneously improving human and institutional resources.

Specifically, it will address a) the role of population based cancer registration in assessing the pattern, incidence and mortality of cancer over time, and its value in better understanding the causes of cancer; b) the prevention and early detection of cancer, designed to reduce the burden of disease and increase the likelihood of successful treatment; and c) innovative approaches to improving the treatment of cancer by increasing the skills, knowledge and number of health professionals dedicated to the management of cancer in developing countries.

Finally, it will emphasize the need to ensure that developing countries learn from the wealthier countries, but also develop their own approaches, learning, in the process, how to do more with less rather than less with more - an unsustainable philosophy promoted by purely commercial interests.