Mortality Rates Across Leading Types of Cancer Vary Globally

A study looking at mortality rates from major cancer types may help inform cancer prevention and treatment strategies, and lead to a reduction to the global cancer disparities seen today.

Image Credit: © Jezper -

Image Credit: © Jezper []

Mortality rates for the 8 leading types of cancers decreased in most of the 47 countries studied, excluding lung cancer in females and liver cancer in males, where increasing rates were observed in most countries, according to findings from a recent study published in the Journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.1,2

The study was conducted by scientists at the American Cancer Society and Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center. Across countries, cancer-specific mortality rates varied substantially, and rates of lung cancer and cervical cancer varied by 10-fold.

In addition, mortality rates decreased or stabilized in all countries for lung cancer in men and stomach cancer in both female and male patients.

“These findings reinforce the importance of strengthening the health systems not only in resource-limited countries but also in high-income countries across the world for broad and equitable implementation of known cancer prevention and control interventions,” said Ahmedin Jemal, MD, senior vice president, surveillance and health equity science at the American Cancer Society and senior author of the study, in a press release.1 “Doing this will further mitigate the rising cancer burden and reduce cancer disparities worldwide.”

In the study, investigators analyzed mortality rates for major cancer types which are the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, including breast, lung, colon and rectum, prostate, stomach, liver, cervix, and esophagus cancers. The study took place in 47 countries spanning across 5 continents, except Africa.

Researchers examined high-quality World Health Organization mortality data, as well as age-standardized rates. Through these methods, researchers were able to determine the different trends and patterns which were associated with each type of cancer.

For lung cancer, mortality rates increased in females in 24 countries by 0.3%-4.3% annually. Researchers also noted that liver cancer mortality rates increased in females in 15 countries by 0.9%-4.5% annually. Looking at men with liver cancer, mortality rates increased in 23 of 47 countries by 0.8%-5.8% annually, mostly in Europe, North America, and Oceania.

According to investigators, the increase in death rates from liver cancer reflects the high prevalence of Hepatitis C infection in the United States, as well as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and heavy alcohol consumption. Further, in 28 of 47 countries, cervical cancer mortality rates decreased by 0.4%-5.2% per year.

The investigators highlight the importance of understanding the current cancer burden and its trends as they are necessary to monitor progress made against cancer and will help experts identify disparities that are seen across countries. Through implementing effective measures, including tobacco control, vaccination, promoting healthy lifestyles, and systematic screening, experts can help prevent a large proportion of cancer cases around the world.

Overall, the results found from this study may help to inform cancer prevention and treatment strategies, resulting in a reduction to the global cancer disparities seen today.

“There is limited published data on recent cancer mortality trends worldwide. The findings based on the up-to-date cancer mortality data may help set priorities for national and international cancer control efforts and in so doing, reduce the marked global cancer disparities observed today,” Ephrem Sedeta, MD, Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

  1. New study shows mortality rates for all major cancers decreasing globally, except liver cancer in men and lung cancer in women increasing. News release. American Cancer Society. May 17, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2023.
  2. Sedeta E, Sung H, Laversanne M, Bray F, Jemal A. Recent mortality patterns and time trends for the major cancers in 47 countries worldwide [published online ahead of print, 2023 May 9]. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2023;OF1-OF12. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-22-1133
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