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World Cancer Day: Why it Matters and How to Support the Cause

World Cancer Day, recognized each year on February 4th, has become a global rallying cry in the fight against cancer. Its inception by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in the early 2000s brought together the international community to tackle a disease that affects us all. The purpose? To share knowledge about its prevention, detection, and treatment.

But World Cancer Day isn't just about spreading the word. It's about driving action to level the playing field for everyone, no matter where they live, and reducing the cancer burden worldwide. It's also a platform to advocate for funding for vital cancer research that paves the way for medical breakthroughs.

Furthermore, World Cancer Day stands up for those lives intertwined with cancer – the brave patients, the resilient survivors, and their supportive families. It's about more than understanding the disease; it's about comprehending the human faces and stories that lie behind the statistics. 

Read on to learn more about the origins of World Cancer Day and how to support the cause.

Featured in: February - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

World Cancer Day History and Background

World Cancer Day has its roots in the groundbreaking 2000 Paris World Cancer Summit. Born out of a global need to counter cancer's far-reaching impact, this event gave birth to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). 

The UICC - a global player in the fight against cancer - pledged to wage war on this deadly disease. Their commitment was inked by French President Jacques Chirac and UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, adding weight to the 10-article Charter of Paris Against Cancer.

On February 4, 2000, the UICC unveiled World Cancer Day. This day of remembrance and action has grown significantly over the years, touching lives far and wide. 

Today, this observance is closely tied to the goals and objectives outlined in the World Cancer Declaration. The declaration, first written in 2006 during the UICC World Cancer Congress in Washington, D.C., is a set of global cancer control targets to be achieved by 2025.

Campaigning for prevention and a cure

Close the care gap graphic
Image courtesy World Cancer Day. Click here for more assets you can share for this year's campaign.

One can't mention World Cancer Day without applauding the "We Can. I Can." campaign. Launched in 2016, it spotlighted unity and individual action, reaching 2.5 billion people across 139 countries in only three years.

In 2019 World Cancer Day launched the "I Am and I Will" campaign, a bold pledge for personal commitment. This wasn't just a new slogan but a call to arms - a shift in our collective approach to cancer. 

This new message drew the support of household names like actor Mark Ruffalo and singer Kylie Minogue (who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005), amplifying its messages further. 

And into 2022-2024, the theme for World Cancer Day is “Close the Care Gap,” - drawing attention to equitable access to prevention and treatment. 

Cancer and Its Challenges

According to World Health Organization data, cancer is a silent adversary that caused a mind-boggling 19.3 million new cases and nearly 10 million deaths in 2020.

The challenges that cancer poses are as varied as they are intricate. Sadly, many patients, particularly in low- and middle-income nations, find quality healthcare inaccessible or unaffordable. 

Meanwhile, prevention and early detection are twin pillars in lightening the global cancer burden. Many cancers, including prostate, skin, lung, and cervical cancer (and more), benefit from early diagnosis. 

Finding the disease early increases cancer patients' chances of controlling cancer, recovering, and beating the disease. However, a general lack of awareness regarding early symptoms and risk factors often leads to late diagnoses and more challenging outlooks. 

Tobacco use is responsible for a jaw-dropping 22% of cancer deaths1. Other avoidable risks include unhealthy eating habits, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol intake, and exposure to environmental cancer-causing agents. The economic impact of cancer is hefty, too, standing at an estimated USD 21bn back in 2019 across the US alone2.

If you think you have might cancer symptoms, see your healthcare specialist as soon as possible, as early diagnosis can increase the chances of effective treatment. 

5 Reasons World Cancer Day Matters

  • Did you know we could prevent up to a third of all cancer cases? That's right. We could substantially reduce cancer's prevalence with simple lifestyle changes - say no to tobacco, choose a healthier diet, and move more.
  • Low- and middle-income countries, due to a lack of resources for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, bear the brunt of cancer's wrath. A mind-boggling 70% of cancer deaths occur in these regions4.
  • Our best allies are early detection and accurate diagnosis, making treatment significantly more effective in the initial stages of cancer. So, the importance of regular health screenings can't be overstressed to help prevent cancer and ensure early treatments/
  • Vaccinations, particularly those against human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), could help us dodge up to a million cancer cases yearly. These viruses have a notorious reputation for causing certain types of cancers, including those of the cervix and liver.
  • Up to 19% of global cancer cases are linked to exposure to detrimental chemicals3, air pollution, and radiation. This statistic is a stark reminder of why we must push for stricter environmental health and safety regulations.

Efforts and Initiatives

World Cancer Day Ribbons
Photo: iStock.

Organizations worldwide and the varied global cancer community are uniting their efforts to confront the ever-looming challenge of cancer. 

Consider the World Health Organization (WHO) at the forefront of this battle. They lead the charge with their Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development. This program collects crucial data to inform and shape cancer control policies.

Various targeted programs aim to meet specific requirements. One such initiative is the Colorectal Cancer Control Program by the CDC. This program collaborates with healthcare organizations, clinics, and hospitals to enhance colorectal screening for individuals aged between 45 to 75 years.

Nonprofit organizations like the American Cancer Society (ACS) are making significant strides too. They're not just about funding and conducting research. No, the ACS also provides expert information and support for patients. Remember the widely popular campaigns - Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer? These collective and persistent efforts give us a window into the world's determination to win the war against cancer.

Similarly, in the UK, Cancer Research UK has been monumental in research to beat cancer. The charity-funded 52% of the cancer research in the country in 2019. Movements like the Pink Ribbon in many countries across Europe and Asia have advocated for breast cancer awareness, early detection, and research to control cancer and find a cure. 

In Australia, the McGrath Foundation ensures every family experiencing breast cancer can access a breast care nurse regardless of location or financial status. 

How to Get Involved and Support World Cancer Day

Getting involved might seem daunting when World Cancer Day rolls around, but it's simpler than you think. Local events, like charity runs or wellness workshops, are great starting points. Even virtual forums count. Participating in these activities does more than fund research - it brings people together.

Additionally, understanding prevention, recognizing early signs, and staying updated on new treatments is essential. We live in a digital age where information is just a click away. Webinars, online resources, or workshops - are all at your fingertips. Share that knowledge, spark conversations, and shatter myths. Use the hashtags #WorldCancerDay and #CloseTheCareGap to join the other voices spreading awareness. Because with cancer, what you know can save lives.

And what about getting hands-on? That's where volunteering comes in. Many local cancer services, hospitals, and support groups need help. They need hands to organize events, voices to handle administrative tasks, and hearts to comfort patients. And every effort helps us raise awareness and support those impacted. 

Visit the official website at https://www.worldcancerday.org/ for more info,

Conclusion

World Cancer Day isn't simply a 24-hour marker on our calendars. The focus isn't solely on the disease but also on the life-saving triad of early detection, robust prevention, and effective treatment strategies that can significantly contribute to cancer prevention and improved cancer care5.

World Cancer Day aims to connect, bridging the gap between those personally scarred by the disease. It also provides important links between the global communities and organizations tirelessly working to eradicate it.

Yet, our responsibility continues beyond the day. We must extend this heightened awareness into our everyday lives, sparking conversations that matter, fostering healthier lifestyles, and pushing for quality care and support wherever required.

Because the fight against cancer isn't just about confronting a disease. It's about saving lives, one precious day at a time. 

World Cancer Day FAQs

1. What is World Cancer Day?

World Cancer Day is a global event held on February 4th every year to raise awareness about cancer and encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

2. What are the main causes of cancer?

The main causes of cancer include genetic factors, lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and exposure to certain chemicals or radiation.

3. How can I reduce my risk of cancer?

You can reduce your risk of cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and protecting yourself from the sun.

4. How can I support the fight against cancer?

You can support the fight against cancer by donating to cancer research organizations, volunteering your time and resources, participating in cancer awareness events, and advocating for cancer prevention and treatment initiatives.

1

Bray F, Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Siegel RL, Torre LA, Jemal A. Global cancer statistics 2018: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin. 2018 Nov;68(6):394-424. doi: 10.3322/caac.21492. Epub 2018 Sep 12. Erratum in: CA Cancer J Clin. 2020 Jul;70(4):313. PMID: 30207593.

2

Yabroff KR, Mariotto AM, Tangka F, et al. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, Part II: Patient Economic Burden Associated With Cancer CareJNCI Oct 26, 2021. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djab192.

3

Madia F, Worth A, Whelan M, Corvi R. Carcinogenicity assessment: Addressing the challenges of cancer and chemicals in the environment. Environ Int. 2019 Jul;128:417-429. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.04.067. Epub 2019 May 9. PMID: 31078876; PMCID: PMC6520474.

4

Wild, C. P., Weiderpass, E., & Stewart, B. W. (2020). World cancer report: Cancer research for cancer prevention. International Agency for Research on Cancer.

5

Miller, K. D., Nogueira, L., Mariotto, A. B., Rowland, J. H., Yabroff, K. R., Alfano, C. M., Jemal, A., Kramer, J. L., & Siegel, R. L. (2019). Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2019. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 69(5), 363-385.

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