Cancer is threatening to overwhelm Latin American countries, experts writing in Lancet Oncology warn. There are far fewer cases of cancer in the region than in the US or Europe – but the proportion who die is far higher, they say.
Late diagnosis and poor access to treatment are the main reasons for the disparity, they add. They said as life expectancy increased, cancer would become more common, and many countries would not cope. The experts looked at cancer incidence and care in the Latin American and Caribbean region, including the following countries: Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, French Guiana, Guyana, Honduras, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Paraguay and El Salvador.
Writing in a Lancet Oncology report that is being officially launched at a specialist conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they say as the economies of these countries grow, and standards of living increase, people are increasingly adopting the habits of more developed countries. They are living more sedentary lifestyles, eating more unhealthily, smoking more and drinking more alcohol.
Sun exposure and indoor pollution from burning solid fuels are also risk factors. The researchers say that in Latin America, there are around 163 cases of cancer per 100,000 people. In the US, the comparable figure is 300 cases per 100,000, while in Europe it is 264 cases per 100,000. But the death rate is much higher. In Latin America it stands at 13 deaths for every 22 cancer cases, while it is 13 deaths for every 37 cases of cancer the US, and approximately 13 deaths for every 30 cases in Europe.
Researchers estimate that in 2030, there will be 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed across Latin America and the Caribbean, and there will be more than 1 million deaths. Paul Goss, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research team, said: “More widespread adoption of lifestyles similar to those in developed countries will lead to a rapidly growing number of patients with cancer, a cost burden for which Latin American countries are not prepared.
“This burgeoning cancer problem threatens to cause widespread suffering and economic peril to the countries of Latin America.
“The region is poorly equipped to deal with the alarming rise in cancer incidence and disproportionately high mortality rates compared with other world regions, underscoring the magnitude of the cancer-control problem.” – BBC