A study published this week revealed a sobering statistic: if worldwide population growth continues at its current pace, the number of cancer cases could rise 75% in the next two decades.

In 2008, 12.7 million people were diagnosed with some form of cancer, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer predicts that by 2030, that number will jump to 22.2 million.

Dr. Freddie Bray and his colleagues found that any reductions in infection-related cancers like stomach, cervical or liver cancer — most common in lower-income regions of the world — are being offset by “an increasing number of new cases that are more associated with reproductive, dietary and hormonal factors.”

Nathan Grey, national vice president for global health for the American Cancer Society, said while middle and low-income countries are often equipped to deal with diseases like HIV and tuberculosis, they don’t have the means to handle an increase in cancer diagnoses.

Middle-income regions are especially at-risk. They haven’t yet conquered infection-related cancers (those caused by bacteria and viruses), and now they’ll be dealing with a rising number of lung, breast and colorectal cancer cases that often stem from a more “Westernized” lifestyle.

“Sustained prevention efforts are also needed to lower these projected increases. As cancer becomes more globally prevalent, initiatives like tobacco cessation and immunization are crucial in reducing the disease’s worldwide burden,” says Dr. Michael P. Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.


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