While the headline is largely meaningless without any comparative data on other diseases such as heart disease, it nevertheless is useful in highlighting that cancer strikes far too many people at too young an age. Highlights of the study:
The main contributors to the total cancer burden (i.e., total DALYs) in most world regions were colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate cancers, which accounted for 18% to 50% of the total. When liver, stomach, cervical, and esophageal cancers and leukemia were added included, 65% of the total cancer burden is accounted for.
The researchers highlight the fact that the contribution of colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer to the total cancer burden has nearly doubled in recent years, from 11% in 1990 to 20% in 2008.
They also note that the contribution of different tumor types to the overall cancer burden varies by world region.
Worldwide, for men, the main contributors to the total cancer burden were lung (23%), liver (28%), and stomach (20%) cancers. However, when the researchers considered the impact of cancer on survivors, measured as years left with disability (YLD), the main contributors were a little different. Prostate cancer was the main cause of YLDs in 93 countries, including the Americas, most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and much of sub-Saharan Africa, whereas colorectal cancer was the main cause of YLDs in 37 countries, such as eastern Europe (including Russia) and Southeast and Eastern Asia (including Japan).
For women, the main contributors to the total cancer burden worldwide were breast cancer (in 119 of 184 countries) and cervical cancer (in 49 countries). The researchers note, however, that cervical cancer contributed more to premature death than did breast cancer in 23 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and in Central and South America.
The largest cancer burden of all was for men in Eastern Europe; this was driven by colorectal, lung, pancreatic, and kidney cancers.