Cancer Rises Globally As World Population Ages Interview with:

Christina Fitzmaurice, MD, MPH Assistant Professor Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation University of Washington Seattle, WA

Dr. Christina Fitzmaurice

Christina Fitzmaurice, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
University of Washington
Seattle, WA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide behind cardiovascular diseases. We found that cancer cases increased by 33% from 13.1 million cases in 2005 to 17.5 million in 2015. The largest driver behind this increase was an aging population, followed by a growing population worldwide. The smallest factor contributing to this increase was a rise in cancer incidence rates. Because of increasing life expectancy and better control of communicable diseases cancer will remain a major burden in the foreseeable future. Adjusting and building health systems that can appropriately deal with this challenge is only possible with good data on the burden of cancer. In our study we estimate the number of cancer cases, and cancer deaths over time for 32 cancers in 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2015. We also estimate how many years of life were lost due to cancer as well as disability adjusted life years and a summary measure that combines these two into disability adjusted life years. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Cancer is not just a challenge in high income countries. We find increasing cancer incidence rates in almost all countries. In some countries we see progress with decreasing age-standardized cancer mortality rates. However, concerning is that countries with increasing age-standardized cancer mortality rates are the least able to provide complex cancer care. When we analyzed the leading causes of cancer in these “poorest” countries we found that many of these cancers have an infectious origin like cervical, stomach, and liver cancer and are therefore amenable to prevention. The pattern is very different when we looked at the leading causes of cancer in high income countries where prostate and breast cancer are the two leading causes of cancer. These examples demonstrate how important it is to examine local disease patterns to drive cancer control strategies. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The results from the Global Burden of Disease study are increasingly being used to drive health policy and global health investments. Using our results to determine what cancer control strategies are needed and which strategies work will be an important area for research. Also, filling the gaps where we currently do not have a lot of data to inform our estimates remains a huge undertaking. Improving and expanding vital registration systems as well as cancer registration is a large part of this. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The Global Burden of Disease study would not be possible without the collaboration of more than 1,600 people from 120 countries and without having access to data that has sometimes been collected under very difficult circumstances. This study exemplifies the power of collaboration to improve health worldwide. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration. Global, Regional, and National Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Years of Life Lost, Years Lived With Disability, and Disability-Adjusted Life-years for 32 Cancer Groups, 1990 to 2015A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. JAMA Oncol. Published online December 03, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.5688

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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