Expert insight

World Cancer Day 2014: Hand in Hand to Debunk Cancer Myths

4 February 2014
  • Cary Adams

Today, February 4th is World Cancer Day. This annual event is the ideal opportunity for millions of people to raise the profile of cancer around the world. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and its 800 member organisations across 155 countries seek to press the world’s media to place cancer on their agendas and across their global news networks.

UICC, its members and partners such as IFPMA use World Cancer Day to present the facts about a disease which many people do not know about and to dispel the many myths and misconceptions around cancer. As CEO, I have seen first hand how misinformation or lack of information about cancer can make detection and treatment even more challenging for people. That is why, this year we seek to “debunk” four myths, following the success we had addressing four other myths in 2013:

  1. We don’t need to talk about cancer
    The truth is that whilst cancer can be a difficult topic to address, particularly in some cultures and settings, dealing with the disease openly can improve outcomes at an individual, community and policy level.
  2. There are no signs or symptoms of cancer
    In fact, for many cancers, there are warning signs and symptoms and the benefits of early detection are indisputable.
  3. There is nothing I can do about cancer
    The truth is that there is a lot that can be done at an individual, community and policy level, and with the right strategies, a third of the most common cancers can be prevented.
  4. I don’t have the right to cancer care
    We believe that everyone should have the right to access proven and effective cancer treatments and services on equal terms without having to suffer hardship as a consequence.

A lack of knowledge in the general public is a key indicator of the difficulty we face in addressing cancer today. It results in individuals exposing themselves to risk factors which they are unaware of. It causes people to view cancer as simply fate. It encourages people to assume that a diagnosis of cancer will always lead to death. All of these myths and misconceptions limit our ability to tackle cancer effectively.

World Cancer Day is our annual opportunity to improve the world’s general knowledge of cancer and challenge misconceptions about the disease at an international level.

What are the facts?

  • In the next twenty years the real growth in cancer deaths will take place in low- and middle-income countries – in countries which are least equipped to cope with such an increase in cancer cases.
  • Cancer kills more people prematurely than any other non communicable disease.
  • Globally, more people die from cancer than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
  • Approximately one in three individuals will develop cancer in their lifetime.
  • In 2010, 14.1 million people were diagnosed with cancer and 8.2 million people died from the disease worldwide.

Cancer is already a significant challenge for our generation and it is set to become even more impactful in the next 20 years. New data from the International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) suggests that cancer cases will rise by 75% to close to 25 million new cases per year over the next two decades.

Please visit to see what you can do to share information about World Cancer Day, and be aware of the events and activities being run around the world by the member organisations and partners of UICC (

UICC, its members, partners and other globally respected organisations like the IFPMA, work together to reduce the burden of cancer globally on a day-to-day basis. On World Cancer Day we stand together to bring focus to a disease which many people do not want to talk about. Cancer affects everyone in some way and the UICC welcomes all organisations which recognise that they can contribute to improving the situation globally. In this respect, the UICC applauds IFPMA for their stated ambition to improve “health around the world by contributing expertise, building trust, and establishing solutions for global health”. Together we are stronger.

Cary Adams is Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). He is also Chair of the NCD Alliance, a coalition of around 2,000 NGOs working on Non-Communicable Diseases, which includes cancer, diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases.


  • Cary Adams