Once thought to be a disease that primarily affects only rich countries, today seventy percent of the 10 millions deaths caused by cancer each year occur in low-income countries, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Director General Yukiya Amano.Zambia, opened its first and only specialized cancer treatment and radiotherapy centre in 2007. It offers free specialised treatment but is located in the capital, hundreds of miles away from many who cannot access it's services.
According to experts, Cancer is still not getting the attention it deserves. Many assume it's a disease of the wealthy world, where high-fat, processed-food diets, alcohol, smoking and sedentary lifestyles fuel tumor growth.
This year's World Cancer Day was marked on February 04. The UN's nuclear watchdog - International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA, says a lot more still needs to be done to control cancer particularly in low and middle-income countries where majority of cancer-related deaths occur.
Apart from fighting ignorance about the disease, lack of high-tech equipment, affordable drugs as well as trained oncologists is a major challenge for many African countries.
"It is estimated that there is a shortage of around five thousand radio machines in developing countries. If you see the map of the African continent we can identify many countries in which there is no singlecancer machine. That means that millions of people in Africa and elsewhere have no access to diagnostic services or treatment. Too many die of conditions that are actually treatable. This is an immense human tragedy," said Amano.
While many cancers are linked to lifestyle factors such as unhealthy diets and smoking, a large number - particularly in Africa - are caused by infections likes hepatitis B and C, which cause liver cancer, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes almost all cervical cancers.
If nationwide HPV vaccine campaigns could be introduced in Africa, health experts say, the effect on rates of death and disease could be dramatic
Researcher have also linked the development of cancer tumors to certain foods high in sugar, transfats and simple carbohydrates, and advise people to eat a low-glycemic diet that controls blood sugar and exercise regularly.