A new study finds that women are at a disadvantage worldwide when it comes to cancer prevention. 800,000 deaths could be avoided.
Around ten million people die from cancer every year. Of these deaths, 2.3 million premature deaths occur in women under 70 years of age. This is the result of a current study carried out by an international research team, which has now been published in the medical journal “Lancet”. In women alone, 800,000 cancer deaths could be prevented through optimal medical care.
“Cancer is one of the main causes of death and is among the three main causes of premature death (under the age of 70) among women in almost all countries in the world. The new analysis shows that of the 2.3 million women who die from cancer every year, 1.5 million could be saved by avoiding risk factors or early diagnosis. At the same time, around 800,000 of these deaths could be prevented every year if women had access to optimal medical care,” wrote the globally respected medical journal.
A total of 5.3 million people around the world died prematurely – that is, under the age of 70 – from cancer in 2020. Malignant diseases could be largely prevented through lifestyle changes.
Underrated alcohol and tobacco in women
But this is apparently underestimated across the world for women. “Around 1.3 million women of all ages died in 2020 as a result of the four main cancer risk factors: tobacco consumption, alcohol, obesity and infections. However, little attention is paid to this problem related to cancer in women. For example, a 2019 study in the United Kingdom showed that only 19 percent of women who were screened for breast cancer knew that alcohol was an important risk factor for breast cancer,” said the Lancet.
The healthcare system, medicine and society often have wrong ideas about cancer in women. “Discussions about malignancies in women often focus on forms of cancer that only affect women – such as breast cancer or cervical cancer. But about 300,000 women under the age of 70 die from lung cancer every year worldwide, and a further 160,000 women die from colon cancer: these are two of the three most common causes of cancer death in women in around the world,” said Isabelle Soerjomataram, deputy head of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Department of Cancer Epidemiology, quoted in a press release.
Discrimination with catastrophic consequences
The epidemiological situation is clear, as Verna Vanderpuye, co-chair of the Lancet Commission that produced the new report, explained: “While men are at greater risk of developing cancers that affect both sexes, women are at approximately the same risk of cancer if all malignant diseases are considered together. 48 percent of all cancer cases and 44 of all resulting deaths occur among women. Of the three million adults diagnosed with a malignancy under the age of 50 in 2020, two-thirds were women.”
The consequences of discrimination against women when it comes to cancer are catastrophic: according to the report, around one million children around the world are orphaned every year due to cancer in young and middle-aged women. In many regions of the world, women continue to have less access to prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of malignant diseases. This is where social disadvantages, lower income and burdens on family and relatives come together. Many cancers in women are diagnosed too late because, in many regions of the world, they often have very little time to take care of their health. (APA)