Why inaction could raise cancer deaths in Africa to 1m per year

Monday February 12 2024

Mortality rates in Africa is set to overtake the global average of 30 percent due to low survival rates and high caseload in the region. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Cancer-related deaths in Africa could nearly double within the next six years if immediate measures are not taken.

Describing the cancer situation in Africa as distressing, the World Health Organisation (WHO), warned that without prompt action, the annual number of cancer deaths in the region might soar to a staggering 1 million per year by 2030.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti lamented the alarming statistics.

“The cancer situation in Africa is disheartening. In 2022, the region saw approximately 882,882 new cancer cases, resulting in about 573,653 deaths.”

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“If urgent measures are not taken, cancer mortality in the region is projected to reach about one million deaths per year by 2030,” said Moeti in a statement read on World Cancer Day in Nairobi.


It is observed annually on February 4.

“In 20 years, cancer death rates in Africa will overtake the global average of 30 percent,” she said.

 “More so because cancer survival rates in the WHO African region currently average 12 percent, much lower than the average of over 80 percent in High-Income Countries.”

Moeti emphasised the urgent need for high-impact interventions to reduce cancer caseloads and fatalities.

Alarming figures

Moeti pointed out that approximately 50 percent of new cancer cases among adults in Africa are due to breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancers.

She said these alarming figures underscore the urgent need for swift action to tackle the escalating cancer burden across the continent.
She urged leaders to prioritise the prevention and care of cancer by making substantial investments.

“Leaders and stakeholders must identify feasible priorities, implement evidence-based population-wide interventions and invest in cancer control,” Moeti said.

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Moeti acknowledged the headway made in cancer prevention and care in the region noting that in promoting cancer prevention and care for a fair and cancer-free world, Moeti emphasized the necessity for visionary leadership. She advocated for ensuring equal access to cancer screening, treatment, and palliative care to extend lives, alleviate suffering, and prevent deaths.

According to Moeti, although progress is being made, more urgent action is needed to boost access to prevention, screening services for early diagnosis and treatment. She added that leaders are responsible for ensuring value for money in cancer prevention and care by deploying technologies and therapies that are available at low cost to affected persons and their families.

She emphasised the need for strengthened information systems for quality data for decision-making, and collaborations with civil society to achieve a cancer-free Africa. 

“Countries should use the updated WHO Best Buys, the facilitative tool designed to enable governments to select lifesaving policies and interventions for non-communicable diseases,” she said.