The International Union Against Cancer

US Oncological Disease, 2007;1(2):22-3 DOI:
Citation US Oncological Disease, 2007;1(2):22-3 DOI:

In 1933, cancer researchers recognized 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 nongovernmental organization (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 papillomavirus (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.

Member Organizations
The UICC unites a wide range of organizations, including voluntary cancer societies, research and treatment centers, 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 organizations to enhance their effectiveness by mobilizing resources and harnessing potential in their communities. It helps new organizations to start up, emerging organizations to consolidate, and mature organizations to maximize 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 organization, 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, behavioral 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.

  1. The acronym is an abbreviation of the Latin title: Unio Internationalis Contra Cancrum.
  2. UICC is non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. It creates and carries out programs around the world with hundreds of expert volunteers working in four strategic directions: cancer prevention and control, tobacco control, knowledge transfer and capacity building, and supportive care. The International Cancer Foundation, established as a charitable foundation under Swiss law, provides financial support for the UICC’s activities. It is a bridge between twoworlds, bringing together cancer professionals and concerned individuals and institutions in the common struggle to preventand control cancer.
  3. All figures in this article are courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO), 2007.
  4. The World Cancer Congress will be held in Beijing in 2010 and in Montreal in 2012.
  5. Other key campaign messages are:
    • encourage an energy-balanced lifestyle based on healthy diet and physical activity;
    • learn about vaccines against viruses that cause some cancers (e.g. HBV vaccines); and
    • teach children and teenagers to avoid UV exposure by being ‘sun smart.’