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Tackling Tobacco Consumption and Improving Vaccination Access Are Two of the Best Ways to Reduce Global Cancer Burden

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Key Points

  • To combat the global cancer burden, a new report recommends raising taxes on the sale of tobacco products, ensuring health professionals set an example by stopping smoking, and protecting the poorest countries from increased marketing by the tobacco industry.
  • The report also recommends increasing the production and distribution of low-cost versions of HPV vaccines and calls for more research into vaccines for other cancer-causing infections.

Combatting the tobacco industry’s tactics in the world’s poorest countries as well as ensuring the best cancer vaccines are available to those most in need are key in order to reduce the number of cancer deaths worldwide, according to a new report published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The report presents the conclusions of the first ever meeting of senior representatives of major cancer research organizations from countries across the world, representing more than half of the world’s population.

Tobacco remains the main driver of the cancer burden globally, and the authors, Harpal S. Kumar, MA, MEng, MBA, DSc, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, and Harold Varmus, MD, Director of the National Cancer Institute, are urging governments throughout the world to put their citizens’ health above the financial gains they reap from tobacco companies.

Recommendations

Recommended measures include putting higher taxes on the sale of tobacco products, ensuring health professionals set an example by stopping smoking, deglamorizing the habit, and protecting the poorest countries from increased marketing by the industry.

The authors also state that more needs to be done to ensure optimal access and uptake of the human papilloma virus vaccine (Cervarix, Gardasil). Vaccine usage is low in most countries, including developed countries such as the United States, where only a third of teenage girls and less than 5% of boys are being vaccinated.

The report also calls for more research into vaccines for other cancer-causing infections, such as hepatitis C and the Epstein-Barr viruses.

Areas of Focus

The paper presents the following as vital areas that governments across the world should focus on:

  • Ensuring there are national cancer plans and adequate cancer registration in all countries.
  • Improved funding for treatment.
  • Making it easier for people to run clinical trials internationally.
  • Making research papers open access and opposing the patenting of genes and gene mutations.

Approximately 12.7 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer every year, and cancer now accounts for more than 15% of the world’s annual deaths.

“This is the first time leading research organizations across the world have come together to consider how best to address the rapidly growing global burden of cancer,” Dr. Kumar said. “The number of people diagnosed with cancer across the world is increasing. But there are clear actions that all countries can take that will go a long way to reducing both the numbers diagnosed from cancer and deaths from the disease.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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