Nearly 170 million years of healthy life are lost to cancer worldwide each year, according to a new analysis of the death toll from the disease.
The study, which used a measure known as disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), takes account of not only the effects of fatal cancer, but also the impacts of disabilities caused by the disease, such as mastectomy for breast cancer or infertility for cervical cancer
The estimate, published in The Lancet medical journal, primarily used information from cancer registries around the world. Researchers found early death was the main impact of cancer in the developing world, but in more affluent nations like the U.S., better prognosis and treatment options allow more people to live longer with cancer.
"While overall DALYs are remarkably similar across different levels of human development, they reflect a higher average premature mortality in lower income countries and a higher average disability and impairment in higher income countries,” said lead researcher Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France.
“Our study represents an important first step towards establishing an evidence base for fatal and non-fatal cancer-related outcomes that is urgently needed to set priorities in cancer control."
The study showed colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate cancers were the main contributors to total DALYs rates in most regions, accounting for about half the total cancer burden. The study also noted improvements in treatment have not boosted survival for a number of common cancers that have poor prognoses (especially lung, stomach, liver, and pancreatic cancers), emphasizing the need for primary prevention.