February 4 – World Cancer Day

Every year, about 10 million people, or one in six, die of cancer. Almost half of these deaths could have been avoided.

Maria Zavialova

World Cancer Day, held every February 4, is a global initiative led by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC). It aims to raise global awareness and catalyze individual, collective, and governmental action to prevent millions of deaths from this disease. Key to this is access to life-saving treatment and care is equitable for all – no matter who you are or where you live. 

Launched in 2000, World Cancer Day has grown into a positive movement that unites 172 countries to stand together against one of the greatest challenges in our history.

What is cancer

It is a large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ or tissue of the body when abnormal cells grow and multiply uncontrollably. When they go beyond their normal boundaries and invade neighboring parts of the body and/or spread to other organs, this is called metastasizing. This process is the main cause of death from cancer. Neoplasm and malignant tumor are other common names.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world after cardiovascular disease.

More than 40% of deaths could be prevented, as they are associated with modifiable risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet and physical inactivity. At least one third of all deaths from malignant tumors could be prevented through routine screening, early detection and treatment.

70% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. This means that millions of lives could be saved every year by implementing appropriate prevention, early detection and treatment strategies.

The most common types of cancer

Breast cancer accounts for the largest part of the world’s malignant tumors’ cases – more than 2.26 million cases and almost 685 thousand deaths in 2020. Lung cancer is in second place, but although the number of cases is less by almost 500 thousand, the mortality rate is almost 1.8 million. The third place belongs to rectal malignancies with more than 1.9 million cases and more than 930 thousand deaths.

The most common types among women

The top three places are the same as in global statistics, with cervical cancer holding the 4th place. Out of more than 604 thousand diagnosed in 2020, more than 341 thousand women died. This is followed by thyroid, uterine, and ovarian malignancies. The highest percentage of deaths relative to cases is liver tumors: more than 252 thousand women died of more than 273 thousand cases.

The most common types among men

The distribution here is slightly different. Lung malignancies are in the first place: more than 1.18 million men died out of almost 1.44 diagnosed in 2020. Prostate neoplasms come next, but of the more than 1.4 million diagnosed, just over 375,000 died. Colorectum malignancies are in third place, followed by stomach, liver, and bladder.

Statistics in Ukraine

Over the past five years, more than 363 thousand people in Ukraine have been diagnosed with malignant tumors. There were almost 149,500 men and more than 214,000 women among them. In addition to breast, skin, uterine, and cervical cancer predominate among women. At the same time, prostate cancer is the most common among men, followed by skin, and then lung and respiratory malignancies.

Causes and prevention

There are factors that we cannot influence. These include age, genetics, environmental factors, and certain immune diseases. However, the first place is held by what we can change.


This extremely harmful habit takes more lives than any other in the world. Tobacco smoke contains at least 80 different cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). The more a person smokes, the younger they start, and the longer they smoke, the greater their risk of getting malignancies. Currently, tobacco use is responsible for almost 22% of deaths. Quit smoking, and you will avoid most diseases, not just malignancies.


All types of alcoholic beverages cause six types of cancer, including colorectum, breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and stomach. Evidence indicates that the more alcoholic beverages a person consumes, the higher the risk of many types of neoplasm. And even moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk.

Being overweight or obese

Associated with an increased risk of developing 12 different types of cancer, including bowel and pancreatic. In general, weight gain, especially in adulthood, is associated with an increased risk of developing malignancies. Plus, a diet high in red or processed meat, salty foods, and low in fruits and vegetables affects the risk of developing cancer, especially colon, nasopharynx, and stomach.

Lack of physical activity

Regular physical activity not only helps to reduce excess body fat and the associated cancer risks. It can also reduce the risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancer.


Causes nearly 2.2 million cancer deaths each year. Cancer cannot be contracted; however, the virus can cause changes in cells that make them more prone to develop into cancer. More than 90% of cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Liver cancer and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma can be caused by the Hepatitis B and C virus, and lymphomas are associated with Epstein-Barr virus. Bacterial infections have not been thought of as cancer-causing agents in the past, but more recent studies have proven that people who have helicobacter pylori infection of their stomach develop inflammation of the stomach lining, which increases the risk of stomach cancer.

The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day is “Close the Care Gap”. It is dedicated to the progress that enables more people to seek and receive the health care they deserve.

Stay healthy, do not ignore annual examinations, especially PAP test and mammography. And stay healthy always!

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