There is little doubt that the world is undergoing a crisis of cancer mortality.
There is even more evidence, however, that the global epidemic is not over.
In this report, The Irish Time looks at the growing evidence that the mortality toll of the disease is not just declining but accelerating.
In the first half of the decade, the global population aged 15-59 grew by 8.7 million people, which equates to around 20% of the world’s population.
A decade ago, it was less than a quarter of this figure.
The reason for this acceleration in mortality is that the number of deaths has increased steadily in the last decade.
From 1.4 million deaths in the first quarter of 2020 to 1.9 million deaths a year later, this represents a more than 3-fold increase.
That is an enormous rise in the rate of growth.
However, as the report notes, the data is not uniform.
For example, while the world population aged 50-59 fell by 1.7% in the same period, this was offset by a similar rise in deaths among people aged 65 and over.
But there is another, even more important factor that is contributing to the growing death toll: technology.
Technology has made it easier to monitor and manage patients, particularly those with advanced cancer.
Over the past decade, data from global cancer registries, the World Cancer Research Fund and other bodies has become available, allowing researchers to measure the health and progress of patients and their families.
It is not yet clear exactly what proportion of cancer cases are being diagnosed by people who are monitoring the progress of their disease or those who are receiving treatments.
To date, the WHO has not published any statistics on how many of the 1.5 million new cancer cases diagnosed are being tracked by doctors or by family members.
“The data does not allow us to measure whether this is a reflection of the health of the population, or whether it is because there is no more data,” says James Kelly, head of the WHO’s International Institute for Clinical and Population Research.
He adds that there is little evidence that it is a factor in the increased mortality rate in the past.
For the latest on the global cancer epidemic, check out this report: The Irish Times: How we died of cancer article In 2018, a team led by Professor Michael J. Daley of the University of Bristol and Professor Peter Parecki of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine published a report which examined the progress made by cancer registrars.
It concluded that the US and the UK were among the best performing countries in the world when it came to the number and size of registries.
And in 2016, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report called the Global Death Index which was designed to measure cancer death rates and their impacts on the health system.
As with many other issues, this report was subject to criticism from some within the public health community.
Its conclusions were criticised as having a biased picture of the progress that had been made and its conclusions were heavily criticised for failing to consider data from countries where the numbers of cancer deaths were smaller.
Despite this, the OECD and the US are now the most populous countries on earth.
Professor Daley told the Irish Times that the death index had not helped to measure progress and that there was no evidence to suggest that the progress in cancer had slowed in the decade to 2020.
Dr James Kelly of the OECD agrees.
According to Kelly, “I think we’ve got to recognise that cancer is a global problem.
There are many causes, but it is really one of the big killers of the planet.”
It may be the case that this is only one part of the story, however.
Another issue is the fact that we now live in a world in which cancer is more commonly found in women.
This is not the case in the 1950s, when breast cancer was much less common in women than it is today.
While this may not have a huge impact on the rate at which cancer deaths are increasing, it does increase the risk of complications that are much more common in people who have a certain genetic predisposition to the disease.
Research has shown that the rate is increasing in women over the age of 65, and that women are more likely to die from breast cancer, even when they have been given hormone treatment, compared to men.
Furthermore, women are twice as likely to get breast cancer than men.
The fact that women and men are at similar risk to each other and to other parts of the globe, such as the Middle East and North Africa, raises the risk that the same causes are also having the same effect on cancer.
So is it really possible that we are facing a cancer crisis?