Cancer. It is expected that by 2020 there will be 16 million new cases of cancer each year. Seventy percent of these cases will be in developing countries. African countries are the least able of all developing countries to cope, having few cancer care services. Most Africans have no access to cancer screening, early diagnosis, treatment or palliative care. Consequently a diagnosis of cancer leads, in most cases, to a painful and distressing death.

The Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation (AfrOx) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) are working together to raise international awareness of the growing problem of cancer in Africa. To coincide with World Cancer Day 2011, on 4 February, AfrOx and ESMO are launching ‘Cancer in Africa: the Runaway Train’ a video program designed seeking to galvanise the global community to ‘stop the train’ and prevent as many cancer deaths as possible.

In addition to the video, AfrOx and ESMO are launching a series of cancer prevention awareness posters for African countries with the aim of developing a template for low-cost cancer awareness and prevention programmes that can be replicated in other developing countries.

At present cancer kills more than 7 million people per year and is responsible for more deaths worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

“The rising incidence of cancer in Africa is like a runaway train coming down the track,” noted Alan Milburn, former UK Secretary of State for Health and Chairman of AfrOx. “The global community must act now to prevent the situation from deteriorating.”

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“One third of cancers affecting people in the developing world are potentially preventable and another third treatable if detected early,” Milburn continued. “Bad habits and diet, tobacco use and sedentary lifestyles can lead to cancer. Avoiding them can also be a way to prevent cancer.”

Professor David Kerr, ESMO President, said “ESMO has a commitment to support the fight against cancer outside of Europe and we are delighted to be working with AfrOx to both raise global awareness of the problem of cancer in Africa and support prevention and awareness programmes in developing countries.”

“We also have high expectations that the 2011 United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases will result in cost-effective global strategies to support our efforts,” Prof Kerr added.

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