Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 18 May 2018. The WHO Director-General answered questions ahead of the World Health Assembly and following the meeting of an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. EPA-EFE/VALENTIN FLAURAUD

Cancer cases will increase by 60% worldwide if countries do not work to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the World Health Organization has said.

In a report released on World Cancer Day, the international health organisation warned that low and middle-income countries, where there are more limited resources for cancer, could see an 81% increase in cases over the next two decades.

In 2018, there were 18.1 million cases and the organisation estimates that in 2040, there will be 29.4 million cases. An estimated one in six deaths is due to cancer globally, the WHO said.

“We can reverse the tide of cancer, avoiding 7 million unnecessary deaths by 2030”, said the organisation’s director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the report’s forward.

The international organisation says that there are several key steps to take to reduce cancer cases including strengthening tobacco control, vaccinating against HPV, screening for cervical cancer, and scaling up the capacity to treat cases.

Dr Ren Minghui, the assistant director-general for universal health coverage at the organisation said the report served as a “wake-up call to tackle the unacceptable inequalities between cancer services in rich and poor countries.”

“Cancer should not be a death sentence for anyone, anywhere,” Minghui said in a statement.

In high-income countries, deaths from cancer have been reduced the probability of early mortality by around 20%, said the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s Elisabete Weiderpass.

“But low-income countries only saw a reduction of 5%. We need to see everyone benefitting equally.”

In a second report released in coordination with the WHO, the international agency released a report on cancer causes and inequalities worldwide.

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