It is estimated that there will be over 12 million people diagnosed with cancer this year. Hardly any family has not been hit by cancer, and when cancer hits it can hit hard. The burden on Society caused by cancer is immense not only in terms of the human suffering of patients and their relatives and friends, but the cost of cancer in economic terms. The strain cancer produces on health professionals and health systems is substantial and growing rapidly.
The World Cancer Report 2008 provides a unique global view of cancer and documents many important features of the global situation. The global cancer burden doubled in the last thirty years of the twentieth century, and it is estimated that this will double again between 2000 and 2020 and nearly triple by 2030. Until recently, cancer was considered a disease of westernised, industrialised countries. Today the situation has changed dramatically, with the majority of the global cancer burden now found in low- and medium-resource countries. The greatest impact of this coming increase will fall on the low- and medium-resource countries, which frequently have a limited health budget and a high background level of communicable disease. Cancer treatment facilities are not universally available and life-saving therapies are frequently unavailable.
The rapid increase in the cancer burden represents a real crisis for public health and health systems worldwide. A major issue for many countries, even among high-resource countries, will be how to find sufficient funds to treat all cancer patients effectively and provide palliative, supportive and terminal care for the large numbers of patients, and their relatives, who will be diagnosed in the coming years. The World Cancer Report 2008 provides a comprehensive overview of cancer for all those working in the field of health-care and research, and the general reader as well. It presents information on cancer patterns, diagnosis, causes and prevention concisely, clearly outlining the growing public health crisis. Simultaneously, there is a clear message of hope: although cancer is a great and growing devastating disease, it is largely preventable.
Current priorities for global cancer control must include a focus on low- and medium-resource countries and the identification, delivery and evaluation of effective cancer control measures. Prevention research is of overwhelming importance. Translational research in its broadest sense is of paramount importance to cancer control, covering the spectrum from translating cutting-edge scientific discovery into new approaches to cancer treatment to translating knowledge of cancer risk factors into changes in population behaviour.