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Global Cancer Incidence

Cancer is often considered a disease of affluence, but about 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Explore this interactive map to learn about some cancers that disproportionately affect poorer countries. And check out the series Cancer’s New Battleground from PRI's The World. « Previous | Next »

Global Cancer Mortality

Cancer is a leading cause of death in many wealthy countries, and its toll is rising in poorer regions. A 2012 study in The Lancet Oncology predicted that from 2008-2030, cancer incidence will rise 75 percent globally and will double in the least developed countries. « Previous | Next »

Breast Cancer Incidence

Breast cancer is the world’s most common cancer in women. The illness is diagnosed most frequently in developed countries. Good nutrition in childhood and a relatively late age at which women begin childbearing are likely factors. The high rate of disease in wealthy nations may also reflect aggressive screening. « Previous | Next »

Breast Cancer Mortality

Although breast cancer is diagnosed more commonly in wealthy nations, some low-income countries – in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean – suffer very high mortality rates. A lack of early detection programs in these countries may play a role. Genetics may also be a factor; women of African descent tend to develop more aggressive tumors than women of European descent. « Previous | Next »

Cervical Cancer Incidence

Rates of cervical cancer – once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States – have plummeted in North America and elsewhere in the developed world. A big reason is the Pap test, which can identify precancerous lesions. In low-income countries, testing is rare and the disease remains common and deadly. « Previous | Next »

Cervical Cancer Mortality

The primary cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. Vaccines against HPV, as well as low-cost tests that detect precancerous lesions, could dramatically lower death rates in countries where the disease still kills large numbers of women. « Previous | Next »

Liver Cancer Incidence

Almost 85% of liver cancer cases occur in developing nations. In Asian countries such as Mongolia, the burden of disease is blamed on high rates of hepatitis B and C, as well as widespread alcohol use. In West Africa, a contributing factor is exposure to aflatoxins, carcinogenic compounds that can contaminate peanuts and other crops. « Previous | Next »

Liver Cancer Mortality

In nations with high rates of liver cancer, people tend to contract the disease – and die from it – at an especially young age. In some high-risk countries, childhood immunization programs against hepatitis B have been implemented. Such a vaccination program in Taiwan, launched in 1984, appears to have reduced liver cancer rates among young adults. « Previous | Next »

Lung Cancer Incidence

Lung cancer kills more people globally than any other cancer, and by far the biggest cause of the disease is cigarettes. The lag time between when a person starts smoking and when cancer develops can be 30 years. High rates of lung cancer in countries such as the United States reflect high rates of smoking several decades ago. « Previous | Next »

Lung Cancer Mortality

Smoking has declined in many industrialized countries, but it is increasing in developing nations. Today, China consumes more than a third of the world’s cigarettes, and an estimated two thirds of men in Indonesia smoke. Experts predict sharp increases in lung cancer deaths in the developing world in the years ahead. « Previous | Next »

Prostate Cancer Incidence

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer of men worldwide. The disease is diagnosed most frequently in high-income countries. One reason is aggressive screening with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Screening can find cancer early – when it is treatable – but may also detect tumors that would never pose a risk to a man’s life. « Previous | Next »

Prostate Cancer Mortality

Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and other nations with large black populations face high death rates from prostate cancer. Men of African descent are especially susceptible to the disease. In the United States, African American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men. « Previous | Next »

Stomach Cancer Incidence

Rates of stomach cancer – the fourth most common cancer globally – vary dramatically within countries and between them. Incidence is especially high in East Asia, where diets rich in salty and pickled foods are a risk factor. Infection with the bacterium H. pylori, especially common in developing countries, is also considered a major cause of stomach cancer. « Previous | Next »

Stomach Cancer Mortality

Stomach cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death in the United States; today, it doesn’t make the top ten. This decline may be due in part to the advent of refrigeration, which has reduced the use of salt as a food preservative. Japan, where stomach cancer is extremely common, conducts mass screenings to catch the disease early. « Previous | Next »

Data notes

Cancer Data

The cancer statistics provided here come from GLOBOCAN, a project of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The figures are estimates (for 2008) based on available data, as in many parts of the world there is no comprehensive recordkeeping of cancer diagnoses and deaths. Read here how the estimates were derived.

Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, Forman D, Mathers C and Parkin DM. GLOBOCAN 2008 v2.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from:, accessed on Oct. 1, 2012.

Country Data

UNDP is the source for HDI ranking (2007/2008).
The World Bank is the source for GDP per capita, health expenditure per capita, and life expectancy (2008).