Cancer’s Dangerous Mythology

World Cancer Day 2013 will focus on dispelling damaging myths about the disease, including that it is largely a developed-country problem and that fate determines who gets it. In fact, developing-country citizens lose the most years of life to cancer – often to forms of cancer that are easily prevented with a vaccine.

GENEVA – This year, World Cancer Day will focus on dispelling damaging myths about the disease. The theme – illustrated in the tagline “Cancer – Did you know?” – offers an opportunity to reflect on cancer’s true consequences and enhance global prevention and treatment efforts.

One prevailing myth is that cancer is primarily a developed-country problem. But, while it is true that cancer is pervasive in wealthy countries, people in the world’s poorest countries lose more years of life to the disease. As medical advances and technological developments have helped cancer patients in high-income countries to live longer – to the extent that some forms of cancer have effectively become chronic conditions – those in low-income countries continue to die young.

Besides being unjust, this is deeply tragic. Having eluded killers like malaria and AIDS, one should not then be killed prematurely by cancer – especially a form of cancer that could have been prevented with something as simple and as affordable as a vaccine.

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