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Minister Health Joins Forces with Global Cancer Community to Declare War on Cancer in Africa

21 November 2013, Cape Town, South Africa – Experts came together this week at the 2013 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) to discuss how to ‘close the cancer divide by 2025’, which was the theme of the event. Organised by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and hosted by CANSA, the Summit took place at Cape Town City Hall on the 19th November 2013.

Chris Wild, the Director of the UN Agency IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), informed the participants that there were 14.1 million new cancer cases, 8.2 million deaths and 32.5 million people still living with cancer within five years from diagnosis in 2012. He noted that one in three cancers diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa is infection related and one in four women’s cancers diagnosed is breast cancer.

Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, Republic of South Africa was present at the Summit and addressed participants which included other ministries, First Ladies of Africa, international decision-makers and United Nations (UN) officials. Dr. Motsoaledi welcomed the WCLS to the African region and Cape Town and noted that “According to the health building blocks systems of the World Health Organization (WHO), leadership is recognised as one of the six key areas for building effective health care.”

Dr. Motsoaledi Emphasised Urgent Need to Improve Cancer Data Collection in SA

“In South Africa, reported deaths by the official statistics body reveal that around only 7% of deaths are a result of cancer, but we know that in reality the problem is much greater.” He noted that breast and cervical cancer, followed by lung cancer and cancer of the oesophagus are the most reported. “In order to improve our data, we recently introduced regulations for the compulsory reporting and collection of all cancer cases. We are hopeful that over the next few years that this regulation will give us the information we need for proper cancer control.”

South Africa is not the only country with this data collection problem, as reported by Professor Mary Gospodarowicz, the President of the UICC. “Less than 1% of the African region is currently covered by population based cancer registries. So out knowledge of cancer in the region is limited at a time when we know an epidemic is emerging. But for women’s cancers, which account for a significant number of preventable deaths each year in sub-Saharan Africa, there are immediate steps which countries can take to reduce this unnecessary loss of life.”

Dr Motsoaledi to Introduce HPV Vaccination to Address Cervical Cancer in SA

Dr Motsoaledi declared his intention to address cervical cancer in South Africa by introducing the Human Pappiloma Virus (HPV) vaccination as HPV causes the majority of cervical cancers worldwide. “In Africa, vaccinating against the HPV virus is as important as any other preventive measure for cervical cancer. I am very happy to share that from next year, all girls in grade four in South African public schools will be vaccinated against HPV, which will continue with each grade four class that follows thereafter. This commitment is by no means inexpensive from either a human or financial resource perspective, but where there is a will there is a way,” Dr. Motsoaledi motivated.

Important to Include Cancer in World Health & Development Agendas

Professor Mary Gospodarowicz, President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), emphasised the opportunity that exists to save lives. “It is important to include cancer control in the world health and development agendas. It is everyone’s responsibility to take action to address the cancer divide.  That we need more energy and international coordination to create greater momentum in low and middle income countries helping countries like South Africa to address their cancer burden.” She concluded the Summit with a call to unite with one voice to reach decision-makers. “Failure is not an option here and we must be ready to start a movement to achieve our long term goals,” concluded Gospodarowicz.

Overview of Current Global Cancer Landscape:

  • An increasing number of people globally are being affected by cancer
  • Cancer is an increasing burden socially and economically
  • Approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries
  • According to WHO, approx. 30% of cancers could be prevented
  • Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008
  • Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year
  • Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 13.1 million deaths in 2030

Local Issues Around Cancer in South Africa:

  • Early detection
  • Cost of treatment
  • Access to treatment
  • Cervical cancer, Breast cancer and other women cancers

Related Press Releases:

About the WCLS

First organised in 2008, the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) is the most important annual high-level policy meeting dedicated exclusively to influencing global strategy for cancer control. The event brings together key decision makers from around the world and encourages timely debate on emerging issues related to cancer. It provides a vital forum to secure a global, cross-sector, response and ensure accountability in addressing the spiraling cancer epidemic.

About UICC

UICC unites the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, to promote greater equity, and to integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.

A membership organisation founded in 1933 and based in Geneva, UICC’s growing membership of over 800 organisations across 155 countries features the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes and patient groups. Together with its members, key partners, the World Health Organization, World Economic Forum and others, UICC is tackling the growing cancer crisis on a global scale.


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