Geneva Health Forum Archive

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The Role of the Global Community in Cancer Control

Author(s): I. Mortara1
Affiliation(s): 1UICC, Geneva, Switzerland
Key messages:

1 – The burden of cancer is shifting to developing countries, but in many of these countries little is known about the shape and size of the challenge.
2 – About 40% of cancers could be prevented if we were to act on what we already know.
3 – Our role is to catalyse change: to do this effectively we need to work with research partners, publicize research findings, promote research where it is lacking, and communicate the need for change.

Summary (max 100 words):

In 2005, the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) created the World Cancer Campaign to scale up public and political awareness of the fight against cancer. The campaign was a response to the Charter of Paris adopted on 4 February 2000, which aspired to ‘an invincible alliance – between researchers, health-care professionals, patients, government, industry and media – to fight cancer and its greatest allies, which are fear, ignorance and complacency’. The campaign in its first three years has had two main directions: a global communications outreach to the media and the public, combined with seed funding of projects in specific resource-constrained countries. But to be effective in communication and judicious in funding, the campaign needed a third thrust: it needed research. In 2005, in partnership with Sanofi-Aventis and one of our members, the US National Cancer Institute, we launched ‘My child matters’, today the largest and most comprehensive childhood cancer programme in resource-constrained settings. As part of that initiative, we published a research report, Childhood Cancer: Rising to the challenge, with a chapter on the psychosocial aspects of childhood cancer from colleagues in the International Psycho-Oncology Society – one of our 300 members – and two chapters from colleagues in the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) on the epidemiology of childhood cancer in the 10 countries first selected for funding. This year, we will publish a second report on childhood cancer in these 10 countries – Bangladesh, Egypt, Honduras, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. The first report follows the standard IARC methodology – presenting whole-country cancer registry data where they are available, and where not, extrapolating from partial registry data in the country or even from data in surrounding states. The new report is based on surveys and interviews carried out by Sanisphere, a French consulting agency. What is interesting about these two reports is what they don’t tell us. In most resource constrained countries, we don’t know how many children get cancer or how many die from it. But without good epidemiology, it is hard to act effectively against childhood cancer or to persuade governments to take it seriously. In 2007, we launched a second phase in the World Cancer Campaign: ‘Today’s children, tomorrow’s world’, a five-year initiative focused on children and cancer prevention. ‘I love my smoke-free childhood’ is the first theme in this initiative, promoting smoke-free environments for children. On 4 February this year – World Cancer Day – we published ‘Protecting our children from second-hand smoke’, a scientific report written by leading tobacco control experts in the United States. This report differs from the other two in that we now know a great deal about the dangers of second-hand smoke and what can be done to protect children from it; but as with the other reports, we worked with partners to find the best possible data as a basis for advocacy and action.

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