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In 1933, cancer researchers recognised a need to share knowledge and expertise globally, and founded the International Union Against Cancer (UICC).1 Since then, the UICC has grown into a respected forum for all cancer professionals. Today, the UICC is the leading international non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated exclusively to the global control of cancer.2 Currently, cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Each year, more than 11 million new cases are diagnosed, and more than seven million people die from cancer – over 70% of them in developing countries. In 2020, if current trends continue, new cases will have increased to 16 million per year and more than 10 million people will die from cancer each year.3
Reasons for the growth in cancer incidence and mortality vary from region to region and include demographic changes and increased exposure to such risk factors as tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. In low- and middle-income countries, a major risk factor is infection with viruses such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), which causes liver cancer, and the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. Environmental carcinogens cause 2–4% of all cancer deaths. At least 152,000 cancer deaths are linked to occupational carcinogens. Over 40% of the more than seven million cancer deaths are preventable. Cancer is curable if detected early and treated adequately. This applies in particular to breast and cervical cancer as the technology for screening, diagnosing and treating is mature. Providing palliative care for all those who need it is an urgent humanitarian responsibility.
The UICC unites a wide range of organisations, including voluntary cancer societies, research and treatment centres, public health authorities, patient support networks and advocacy groups and, in some countries, ministries of health. Currently, the UICC has just under 300 members, of which 90 are based in Europe. The UICC helps member organisations to enhance their effectiveness by mobilising resources and harnessing potential in their communities. It helps new organisations to start up, emerging organisations to consolidate and mature organisations to maximise their impact. In 2007, the UICC offered individuals the opportunity to participate in the global fight against cancer by joining the new Global Cancer Control Community. In the 21st century, the UICC, while still a science-based organisation, is putting greater emphasis on public health and the quality of life of cancer patients.
World Cancer Congress
The first international cancer congress was held in Madrid in 1933. The 20th World Cancer Congress will take place in Geneva in August 2008.4 The World Cancer Congress focuses on public health, cancer prevention, tobacco control, patient advocacy and palliative care. It embraces everyone involved in cancer control – clinicians and researchers, behavioural scientists, practitioners and public health experts, patient-care providers and advocates, government agencies and NGOs – making it a uniquely comprehensive event. The World Cancer Declaration adopted by the World Cancer Congress in 2006 outlined 10 specific actions the global cancer control community should take in the short term. The 20th World Cancer Congress will review progress and make a revised declaration with new initiatives and timelines.