Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

International Cancer Control

Photo from CDC staff working in Bolivia

Photo from CDC staff working in Bolivia

More than twice as many people die from cancer than from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that without immediate action, the global number of deaths from cancer will increase by nearly 80% by 2030, with most occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Research suggests that one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented. Although proven ways to prevent cancer exist, these services and technologies are not widely available in low- and middle-income countries.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 2012, the most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide were—

  • Lung cancer (13% of all cancers diagnosed, 1.8 million people).
  • Breast cancer (12% of all cancers diagnosed, 1.7 million people).
  • Colorectal cancer (10% of all cancers diagnosed, 1.4 million people).

and the most common causes of cancer death worldwide in 2012 were—

  • Lung cancer (19% of all cancer deaths, 1.6 million people).
  • Liver cancer (9% of all cancer deaths, 800,000 people).
  • Stomach cancer (9% of all cancer deaths, 700,000 people).

What CDC Is Doing

While most of CDC's cancer programs focus on the United States, CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) is also working on projects to prevent and control cancer around the world. Global efforts help guide CDC's domestic programs by generating lessons learned from innovative strategies and new technologies being used to prevent cancer in other countries.

Many of CDC's global efforts focus on strengthening cervical cancer screening programs to have the biggest effect on reducing the global cancer burden. These programs are needed most in less developed regions, where almost nine out of 10 cervical cancer deaths occur.

Chart showing the rates of cervical cancer cases and deaths for Sub-Saharan Africa and North America.

Cervical cancer can be prevented with vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) and regular screening tests and follow-up. Cervical cancer is on the decline in the United States, but the burden in many countries remains high, mostly due to a lack of screening and treatment services.

For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, about 35 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed for every 100,000 women, compared with only about 7 new cases for every 100,000 women in North America. About 23 women per 100,000 die from cervical cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to about 3 per 100,000 in North America.

DCPC also works with agencies like WHO, the American Cancer Society, and IARC to develop cancer registries, develop a global cancer training course for public health professionals, and improve quality assurance, monitoring, and evaluation.

Photo: In Vietnam, a former jail now houses a temporary oncology center for Hue Central Hospital.

Photo: In Vietnam, a former jail now houses a temporary oncology center for Hue Central Hospital.

Featured Programs

  • Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon: This global initiative builds on health care programs in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce deaths from breast and cervical cancer. CDC helps monitor and evaluate this initiative, and works to promote sustainability of the activities in Zambia, Botswana, and Tanzania. As part of this initiative, CDC recently received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop global standards and tools for monitoring and evaluating cervical cancer programs in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (GICR): CDC, IARC, the Union for International Cancer Control, and other organizations created GICR to provide training, support, and infrastructure to regional networks for cancer registries. This work will help countries produce reliable information on the burden of cancer so they can develop and implement effective cancer control policies.
  • Latin American and Caribbean Cervical Cancer Initiative: CDC is working with the Pan-American Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, the Network for Latin American National Cancer Institutes (RINC), and the National Cancer Institute to increase access to high-quality cervical cancer screening and treatment in the region. Key strategies include working with countries to develop evidence-based cancer screening programs, and training health care providers to screen for cervical cancer using low-cost technologies. Activities focus on helping countries implement the new WHO cervical cancer screening guidelines and on developing monitoring and evaluation tools for program managers.
  • Pacific Islands Screening Project: CDC is exploring different ways to screen for cervical cancer in the United States Affiliated Pacific Islands, since many areas lack screening services and have limited resources to process Pap tests. Alternative methods may allow women to be screened as recommended.