The GAVI Alliance, the American Cancer Society, and LIVESTRONG® welcome the campaign "Cancer can be prevented, too" which the International Union Against Cancer is launching on February 4, World Cancer Day. On this occasion, the UICC will also release a new report on cancer prevention with a specific focus on cancers caused by infections.
Geneva, 4 February 2010 - We strongly support the message sent out by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) because we have evidence that some cancers can, indeed, be prevented. A very powerful tool in cancer prevention is within our reach through vaccines, a simple and cost-effective intervention. In the global fight against cancer, vaccines are achieving encouraging results and becoming increasingly important.
After tobacco, infection from the hepatitis B virus, which causes chronic liver diseases, is one of the biggest preventable causes of cancer. Some two billion people worldwide are affected by hepatitis B, 97 percent of them in the developing world. Each year, 500,000 to 700,000 people die from chronic liver diseases including cancer.
We strongly support the message sent out by the International Union Against Cancer because we have evidence that some cancers can, indeed, be prevented.
Hepatitis B vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends routine immunisation of children, and more than 110 countries have adopted a policy of immunising all infants with the hepatitis B vaccine.
Since the GAVI Alliance was launched in 2000, coverage rates for full immunisation with hepatitis B (three doses) in developing countries have risen from 20 percent to 68 percent. An estimated three million deaths from chronic liver diseases such as liver cancer will be prevented through these programmes so far.
A few years ago, a vaccine that can prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes more than 99% percent of cervical cancers, became available.
Cervical cancer is diagnosed in nearly half a million women globally every year, and 270,000 women die each year from cervical cancer, 85 percent of them in developing countries. In Africa, a woman dies of cervical cancer every ten minutes.
Cervical cancer can be treated if it is detected early, but awareness is low, and screening programmes have proven difficult to carry out in developing countries.
While it is important to continue exploring strategies for better screening, the new vaccine against HPV provides a highly effective means of preventing cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine is still too costly for those who need it most, but the two companies that manufacture it have committed to offering it in the developing world at significantly reduced prices of below US$ 10.
The rollout of the hepatitis B vaccine in developing countries has shown that vaccine prices inevitably decline with the rising demand that is pooled through GAVI. This should also happen with the HPV vaccine. Continuing deaths from cervical cancer in poor countries can be reduced now.
Donor governments, many of which have recently introduced HPV vaccines themselves, must provide the funds to ensure HPV vaccines are available to those who need them most. Some cancers can be prevented - through vaccination.