Miskawaan Integrative Cancer Care

Global cancer statistics

Global Cancer Facts and Figures 2021

Every few years, the International Agency of Research on Cancer releases its latest set of global cancer statistics along with estimates of incidence and mortality. Here we take a look at the latest GLOBOCAN2020 report, how it compares to previous statistics and what we can expect for the future.

How Cancer Data Collection Has Changed

With improvements in technology and data collection, we are better equipped today than ever before to see how cancer affects the global population. 

This gives researchers and oncologists a deeper understanding of the prevalence and which populations are likely to be affected.

Cancer on the Increase

The latest figures from GLOBOCAN2020 estimate that there were some 19.3 million cases of cancer in 2020 and 10 million cancer deaths. This compares to just over 17 million cases in 2018 and 9.5 million deaths. 

The growth of cancer is due to a variety of factors. Humans are living longer and the older we get the more likely we are to develop some form of the disease. There are also socioeconomic factors that come into play in many countries across the globe. 

According to the latest research, 20% of people will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime. 1 in 8 men will die from the disease and 1 in 11 women. The better news is that around 50 million people are living more than five years after their diagnosis.

The Top Ten Cancers

Common cancer types

The top ten most prevalent cancers account for around 60% of diagnoses:

  1. Female breast cancer: 2,261,419 new cases in 2020, 684,996 deaths.
  2. Lung cancer: 2,206,771 new cases and 1,796,144 deaths. 
  3. Prostate cancer: 1,414,259 new cases and 375,304 deaths.
  4. Nonmelanoma of skin: 1,198,073 new cases and 63,731 deaths.
  5. Colon cancer: 1,148,515 new cases and 576,858 deaths.
  6. Stomach cancer: 1,089,103 new cases and 768,793 deaths. 
  7. Liver cancer: 905,677 new cases and 830,180 deaths. 
  8. Rectum cancer: 732,210 new cases and 339,022 deaths. 
  9. Cervix uteri: 604,127 new cases and 341,831 deaths. 
  10. Esophagus cancer: 604,100 new cases and 544,076 deaths. 

There is global diversity when it comes to both prevalence and mortality for different cancers. In men, for example, prostate cancer is most frequently diagnosed in 112 countries, while in 36 other countries, it’s lung cancer. For women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed disease in 159 countries with cervical cancer being more frequently diagnosed in 23 other countries.

Cancer diagnosis and mortality rates also vary considerably when you take into account the human development index (HDI). Lung and prostate cancer are more prevalent in high HDI countries such as the USA when compared to lower HDI nations such as India.

Cancer Rates and Gender

According to the 2020 statistics, incidence rates of cancer in men was nearly 19% higher than in females. There are, however, significant differences between different parts of the globe. 

For instance, the incidence rate for men in New Zealand and Australia is nearly 500 per 100,000 while in Western Africa it’s closer to 100 per 100,000 for all types of cancer. Australia and New Zealand, however, have a much higher incidence of skin cancers which compounds the data to a certain extent. 

The incidence of breast cancer in women has overtaken lung cancer, with 2.3 million new cases in 2020 (compared to 2.09 in 2018), accounting for more than 11% of the diagnosed population. We see the largest incidence rates in areas such as Western and Northern Europe and North America, though mortality rates are higher in underdeveloped countries. 

Lifestyle factors and hormonal risks (such as the later onset of menopause) are likely to play a role here. However, rates are beginning to rise significantly in areas such as Asia, Africa and South America where they have been traditionally lower.

The Future of Cancer

The projected statistics for cancer in the future are fairly stark, according to GLOBOCAN2020. 

  • By 2040, it’s estimated that the incidence of all cancers will have risen from just over 19 million in 2020 to 30.2 million. 
  • The rise is expected to be seen across all countries, with low HDI locations catching up more quickly to areas such as North America and Europe. 
  • We are likely to see greater increases in the incidence of both breast and cervical cancer in women. 

The good news is that our understanding of cancer in all its forms has expanded dramatically over the last couple of decades. Increasingly effective diagnostic techniques and treatment approaches are making a significant difference to the outcome for many cancer patients throughout the world.


Cancer Types

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