Global Equity and Cancer Control

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) bear a larger burden of cancer mortality than high-income countries (HICs), with as many as 70 per cent of cancer deaths occurring in LMICs. Despite major breakthroughs in cancer care, the variation in treatment availability between countries of different income levels is significant; comprehensive treatment is available in more than 90 per cent of high-income countries but less than 15 per cent of low-income countries. Cancer has become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in LMICs, with disparities spanning the entire cancer care continuum, from prevention to diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care.

For childhood cancer, the WHO estimates that close to nine in 10 children with cancer live in LMICs where survival rates are less then 30 per cent, compared to 80 per cent in high-income countries. LMICs also see millions of cases of breast and cervical cancer each year, but cancer research is heavily skewed towards HICs. This is problematic inasmuch as recommendations and protocols based on research conducted in HICs may not be practical or even possible in LMICs. 

There is some skepticism about how realistic it is to provide comprehensive cancer care in resource-constrained countries. However, global health leaders have advocated that this position is analogous to the unfounded arguments of twenty years ago that HIV treatment could not be provided in LMICs. Through funding, research and advocacy, life-saving treatments for infectious diseases, such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, resulted in a large reduction in global infectious disease mortality. These successes have shown a pathway to confront the evolving cancer burden, and in recent years, global cancer control has been a growing priority for the WHO and governments globally.

On Thursday, January 26, 2023, we hope that you will join us for a conversation on “Global Equity and Cancer Control” at our 5th annual Global Health Conference with conference co-chairs Dr. Gina Ogilvie and Dr. Caron Strahlendorf. The conference will host a wide range of speakers from around the world, giving us the opportunity to re-examine cancer control from a global equity lens with a particular focus on the global cancer burden on children and women. The conference is being hosted by the Centre for International Child Health at BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.


[1] Shah SC, Kayamba V, Peek RM Jr, Heimburger D. Cancer Control in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Is It Time to Consider Screening? J Glob Oncol. 2019 Mar;5:1-8. doi: 10.1200/JGO.18.00200. PMID: 30908147; PMCID: PMC6452918
[2] World Health Organization, World Cancer Day: Closing the Care Gap
[3] World Health Organization, Improving the Childhood Cancer Care Rate