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INFOGRAPHIC: An Interactive Look At How Cancer Affects People Around The World
December 20, 2012
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Cancer kills millions of people every year - according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 7.6 million people died of the disease in 2008. That's 13 per cent of all deaths worldwide.

As those numbers suggest, cancer is a global problem. But the disease is often associated most strongly with higher-income countries - it's often referred to as a "disease of affluence."

Well, this interactive infographic, created by the Pulitzer Centre and Public Radio International's 'The World' website based on data from the WHO's Globocan 2008 study, looks at cancer rates around the world, and uncovers some surprises.

The map shows the incidence of cancer in countries across the globe, and lets you compare different types of cancers, as well as looking at how death rates compare with rates of the disease.

At first glance, the graphic seems to support the "disease of affluence" theory to some extent: the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia/New Zealand all have relatively high rates of cancer (300.2 people in every 100,000 get cancer in the U.S. each year, while in the Sudan, for instance, that number is only 81.5).

But looking deeper into the results, the picture changes. For instance, liver cancer hits 25.7 people in 100,000 each year in China, but only 3.3 people per 100,000 in Canada.

And in developing nations, some types of cancer are widespread compared to more affluent countries. There are only 6.6 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 people each year in Canada. In Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi, the number is over 50 people.

Another major difference between the developed and developing world is the percentage of people who succumb to the disease. While 300.2 people in 100,000 contract cancer in the U.S., only 104.5 die from it (about 35 per cent). In Sudan, 81.5 in 100,000 get the disease, but 64.5 of those people die as a result (79 per cent).


There are also some things to keep in mind about the data in the WHO report that this chart is based on. As they explain in their "Data Sources And Methods" document, the WHO had to correct "for under-reporting or incompleteness" in some countries where accurate numbers are not easy to find.

When it came to calculating mortality rates in 88 of the countries they looked at (those in "developing regions"), no vital statistics were available. The WHO had to estimate some aspects of the data based on medical realities in other countries.

The chart is part of the news series 'Cancer's New Battleground - the Developing World' on Public Radio International's The World website. Check out that thought-provoking series of articles right here.

The WHO also recently released a short report called 'Rethinking "Diseases of Affluence": The Economic Impact of Chronic Diseases'.

The report states that "in almost all countries, the poorest people are most at risk of developing chronic diseases and dying prematurely from them," and calls for investment in chronic disease prevention programs in "many low and middle income countries struggling to reduce poverty."


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