World Cancer Day: Uniting for Progress

The theme of World Cancer Day this year is

Cary Adams

The theme of World Cancer Day this year is “We can. I can,” and it’s one that captures the energy and enthusiasm behind this annual effort to galvanize people from around the world to increase awareness of cancer in a positive and inspiring way.

Cancer results in more than 8 million deaths across the globe every year, and by designating this special day each year, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) hopes to encourage organizations and individuals to reflect on how they can help reduce the global burden of this disease.

“It's an extraordinarily exciting day to see so many positive and inspirational stories emanate from social media and generally in the media, as a result of activities taken by the general public, cancer organizations, universities, governments, everyone,” said Cary Adams, chief executive officer of the UICC.

“It's just a wonderful day to celebrate what we can achieve if we actually put our minds together against cancer.”

The first half of World Cancer Day’s tagline, “We can,” asks businesses and government organizations to reaffirm their commitment to public health. In a press release, UICC urges governments to engage in four specific actions:

  • The implementation of vaccination programs to prevent infections that cause cancers such as cervical and liver
  • An increase in access to screening and detection programs for cervical, breast and bowel cancers
  • An improvement in tobacco taxation and regulation
  • Pain relief and palliative care for all patients with cancer

“The solution to addressing cancer globally is held in the hands of individuals, and in the hands of groups, organizations and governments,” Adams continued.

UICC says many cancers—up to 4.5 million every year—can be prevented with lifestyle interventions. “I can” encourages individuals to reduce their own cancer risk through actions such as stopping smoking, exercising more and reducing consumption of alcohol and red and processed meat.

UICC is also stressing the economic impact of cancer through World Cancer Day: about half of the total number of cancer deaths this year will be of individuals aged 30 to 69 years.

According to a study by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health, it is estimated that cancer will cause an economic burden of $8.3 trillion worldwide from 2011 to 2030. Total economic burden reflects medical costs (such as hospitalization or prescription drugs), nonmedical costs (such as transportation) and income losses due to treatment or disability.

Adams said the economic impact of cancer can be reduced by improving detection, treatment, and palliative care:

“In order to address the economic impact of cancer on all countries' economic growth and social development, we need to put funding in now to address the causes of cancer, to improve the detection of cancer and, in time, improve the treatment of cancer so people live a fuller and healthier life.”

In recent weeks, a new White House task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden has begun to construct plans for a “moonshot” to cure cancer. The first steps of this plan includes doubling the current rate of research—to complete five years of gains that might otherwise take a decade or more.

This “moonshot” fits right in with the goals of UICC and World Cancer Day, Adams stressed.

“From my perspective, it is an important statement of priority and intent and a hope that inspires others, within the US and around the world ... to commit equal amounts to help this research for treatments for cancer.”

Whether it is just one day of the year or one initiative by the government of one country, Adams said anything can become a catalyst for progress in cancer care.

“[World Cancer Day] is the one day in the year when everyone—literally everyone in every country—[has the chance to] come together and say something or do something about cancer.”